Greenhouse IPM Scout School: Grower Input to Create the Curriculum

Final report for ONE21-396

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2021: $20,614.00
Projected End Date: 07/31/2022
Grant Recipient: New York Integrated Pest Management, Cornell University
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Dr. Elizabeth Lamb
New York Integrated Pest Management, Cornell University
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Project Information


Greenhouse production in the Northeast is a significant industry with $2,931 million in economic impact. Due to the aesthetic demands of the crops, pesticides are often the primary pest management method. Scouting is the basis of effective pest management, so having trained scouts available will improve the efficacy of pest management and reduce unnecessary pesticide applications, with the potential to positively affect the environment and human health.


To meet the need for training, a project team of University faculty, collaborators with experience in greenhouse scouting and active learning, and regional greenhouse growers created a curriculum to support an online Greenhouse IPM Scout School certificate program to train scouts for the greenhouse industry. Based on the experience of the project team, we identified, and created a teaching agenda for, 6 topics (to correspond to 6 1.5 hour on-line presentations) that cover the essential points of scouting, with associated activities, discussion questions and lists of what students should know and be able to do after each one.


As background for the interest in such a school and based on input from the growers, we ran a greenhouse grower survey. While few currently hire an outside scout, the majority would give an employee time off to attend a scouting school and even cover the costs in order that their scout could find and identify pests, find management information and communicate what they find.


Project Objectives:

This proposal seeks to create a curriculum of topics based on the needs of the industry to use in a Greenhouse IPM Scout School Certificate Program. For each topic, we will design live webinar-based presentations and associated hands-on activities, discussion sessions, and resource lists to provide grower-approved training combined with current active learning techniques. For the program as a whole we will determine the best platform for delivering the information and interacting synchronously and asynchronously with students across the Northeast region.

Curriculum and program development is the first step to reach the ultimate objective: Trained IPM scouts available to work in the Northeast greenhouse industry.  The certificate training would be available to existing greenhouse employees or students planning on entering the industry. As scouting is the basis of effective pest management, having trained scouts available will improve the efficacy of pest management and reduce unnecessary pesticide applications, with the potential to positively affect the environment and human health.


Greenhouse production in the Northeast is a significant industry. In 8 northeastern states, the greenhouse, nursery, and floriculture industry had a value of $1,775 million in direct sales and $2,931 million in economic impact (Farm Credit East 2020). In addition, NY and ME are in the top 10 states for greenhouse vegetable production (HortiDaily 2019). Due to the aesthetic demands of the crops, pesticides are often the primary pest management method. In a set of 6 program states (none in the Northeast but with several having similar sales values to NYS), 1,122,600 lbs of pesticide were applied to floriculture crops in 2009 (USDA NASS 2011). For those states, 34% of growers applied pesticides on a preventative schedule and only 51% used scouting data to determine pesticide use. There is clearly a need for scouting training in order to limit pesticide use to necessary applications, reducing economic, environmental and health risks in the industry.

A 2019 survey of 220 NY greenhouse growers (Lamb, unpublished) found that 84% scout on a regular basis and 88% encourage their staff to report issues seen while doing other tasks but only 43% have a designated scout. Sixty-two percent of those with employees train them in scouting, fewer than are trained in watering or sanitation practices. When asked if they would like additional training, 62% said they would like to learn more about disease/insect identification and 37% more about creating IPM plans, both supported by training in IPM scouting. They would also like additional training for their staff – 31% for disease/insect identification and 24% for creating an IPM plan.

In order to meet the need for training, we intend to institute a Greenhouse IPM Scout School certificate program to train scouts for the greenhouse industry in the northeast.  This NE-SARE Partnership grant would support the initial steps in that process - 1) development of a curriculum of topics that are relevant to the industry, 2) identifying and creating digital, hard copy and human resources to support the curriculum, and 3) creating a system for presenting the information that allows us to reach students in a wide geographic area (with both synchronous and asynchronous timing), and give them real-time access to in-person resources through discussion sessions, and scouting experience in a local greenhouse environment with hands-on activities. We will involve growers in this process as they will have essential knowledge on what the curriculum should include and are potential employers for the eventual graduates of the program.

We believe there is a window of opportunity for this educational program. Current conditions have forced growers and educators to connect through new and expanded on-line and active learning methodologies which extend our reach both in distance and in time and provide an opportunity to fill an expressed need for more training in scouting and IPM. The green industry is poised to expand, with the pandemic-fueled 42% increased time spent in gardening (Axiom, 2020), and employees trained in IPM scouting methods will be needed and appreciated.



Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Mark Adams - Producer
  • Stephanie Burnett (Educator)
  • Lori King - Producer
  • Scott and Will Longfellow - Producer
  • Mary McKellar - Technical Advisor
  • Elise Schillo-Lobdell - Technical Advisor
  • Margaret Skinner (Researcher)
  • Cheryl Sullivan (Researcher)


Materials and methods:

Intended teaching format for use of completed curriculum: As background for the methods described as part of this project, an explanation of the intended format for the IPM Scout School certificate may be useful, as it affects curriculum development.  In order to attract students from a wide geographic area and to include students whose work or educational schedules would prevent them from attending a 1-2 day training session in a specific location, the preferred teaching method is a series of 1-1.5 hour webinars to cover the topics, presented by in-person experts over 6 weeks.  These webinars will include video, demonstrations and lectures as determined by the curriculum.


To provide a hands-on practice component, an activity will support each webinar.  A greenhouse operation will be identified for each student to collaborate with for these activities – for example, practice in using hand lenses and digital cameras as scouting tools.  A discussion session following the activity will allow students to explore issues they find with each other and with the course providers and presenters.  The class will be presented on a teaching platform to allow this type of discussion with both synchronous and asynchronous students (based on their time-zone location).

Target population: The Greenhouse IPM Scout School is intended for current greenhouse workers who would benefit from additional training in scouting, those seeking employment in the greenhouse industry for whom a certificate in IPM scouting would be an advantage, and current students as an enhancement to their college/university training. Current greenhouse workers/scouts could also participate in any of the webinars outside of a certificate program.

Steps in creating an IPM Scout School curriculum:

  1. Identification of topics

The project team created a series of topics based on their knowledge and experience designed to fit into the webinar series described above (more information on the topics under Results and Discussion). Additional information for each topic included what students will know and be able to do at the end of the class/course, some potential uses for the discussion board, potential assignments. We also created a list of equipment that the students working toward a certificate will receive.

  1. Identification of resources (including human resources) for each topic

There are many on-line and hard copy materials on scouting practices that can be used or adapted for the curriculum.  While descriptions of insects and disease pests are common, information on communicating with growers and owners may be less available.  For each topic, we identified an initial set of current resources and some of the gaps in information that we need to fill. University faculty, Cooperative Extension educators, and industry reps are essential resources for scouts, and we have a current listing of them for the Northeast as well as a link for Extension resources around the US, in case we have students from outside the region.

  1. Creation of active learning hands-on activities

The hands-on portion of the curriculum is one aspect that we hope will set this scout school apart from others.  Actual practice in aspects of the curriculum will make students more confident in their ability to handle the role of scout.  Combining the activity with question/answer discussion sessions with other students and course presenters will provide a way to reinforce what works and options for those things that don’t.  The activities created as part of this curriculum will take place in a cooperating greenhouse for the most real-world experience.  However, we also have options for students for whom we can’t identify cooperators that will still give them hands-on practice - such as scouting in a local park or at a college greenhouse.

  1. Planning for format/platform

Cornell supports both Zoom and the Moodle open source course management system.  Zoom is one of the most commonly used video conferencing systems and Moodle provides teaching tools and collaborative learning environments.  We discussed several platforms available to us via Cornell or the University of Maine and have decided to use Moodle through Cornell.

  1. Grower input

Growers (Adams, Longfellow, King) participated in on-line advisory meetings (September, January/February  to fit their time availability), providing input on the curriculum and the project. 

The project team presented the proposed teaching strategy and the set of topics for growers to evaluate and add to/subtract from at the first grower advisory meeting, as well as discussed what resources are needed for each and proposed methods for presenting information and the hands-on activities.  We used grower input to flesh out the topics with outlines, suggested speakers, intended student outcomes, and possible hands-on activities. 

At the second grower advisory meeting, we presented the expanded topics for their review. Input on changes, additional resources, order/timing of presentations, or any additional information collected as part of that meeting was incorporated into the final curriculum.

Future plans: Because time and funding beyond the scope of the NE-SARE Partnership grants are necessary to pilot and evaluate the Greenhouse IPM Scout School (see Outreach section), we applied for additional grants to complete the process. Aspects of the curriculum may be useful in other training situations, such as NYS IPM’s IPM In-depth Hands-on Greenhouse Training and the Tri-State Greenhouse IPM Workshop (VT, NH, ME).

Research results and discussion:


Committee meetings (virtual, usually 1 hour) – 8.12.21, 9.16.21, 12.6.21, 12.10.21, 1.10.22, 1.24.22, 5.27.22

Grower advisory meeting (virtual, 1 hour) – 9.24.21, 2.24.22, the third grower advisory meeting was not held as the growers were happy with the progress of the project and June is not a good time for greenhouse ornamental growers to find time to meet.


Identification of topics

We started the project with a general list of what we thought a scout should know as described above. To determine how the topics would fit into the curriculum, we had to decide on the number and length of webinars (see teaching format described above).  Based on experience with the Cornell Small Farms courses, we chose 6 sessions of 1.5 hours each.  There is always more information needed than can be fit into any set of webinars so some will necessarily be provided through other aspects of the course. 


The draft version of the webinar series arranged by topics was presented to the advisory committee at the September 24 meeting. Based on their input, we  refined the topics, and added 'what students will know after the class', 'what students will be able to do', and an agenda for the class.  We discussed the creation of  discussion board topics and assignments, and other pieces of the certificate program, including a Q&A board, a photo gallery, and modules with questions as a review on the pest identification topics.

The growers okayed the class outline with few additional changes at the February 24, 2022 meeting. There is still some flexibility within each class session, which is  appropriate due to the wide variety of potential students and the potential for different presenters. Class Outline

Topic 1: Introduction to the class, scouting as the cornerstone of IPM, and the basic tools of
Topic 2. Mechanics of scouting and record keeping
Topic 3. Resources and how to find information
Topic 4. Overview of scouting for primary disease and arthropod pests of greenhouse crops,
including beneficial insects – Part 1
Topic 5. Overview of scouting for primary disease and arthropod pests of greenhouse crops,
including beneficial insects – Part 2
Topic 6. How to communicate scouting information to others

Identification of resources

The potential list of printed and on-line resources is quite large and changes over time.  We have included some of the most useful on the class outline but will add others as we go along.  We will also encourage students to search for and share resources on the discussion board that they find useful.

We created a short list of resource people - growers, Extension specialists from the region, and industry advisors.  Rather than ask them to teach a topic, we decided that having them record short 'scouting tips' videos that relate to the topics would fit the format of the courses better and would let us get input from a wider group. 


Creation of active learning activities

We discussed potential activities, as described on the class outline. In addition, Mary McKellar created some example online activities related to the topics covered: NYS IPM Scout School - Example Online Activities 

The activities for each student may depend on what greenhouse facilities they have available and therefore flexibility may be key in choosing which activities are required and which are optional, or how to adapt them to the situations.


Planning for format/platform

Several learning platforms were suggested and discussed, including Teachable, Moodle, Canvas and Brightspace (a comparison of Teachable and Moodle was prepared by Mary McKellar: Evaluation of Learning Management System Platforms . The one we choose will need flexibility; methods for asynchronous student interaction, including the ability to post pictures and video; the possibility of maintaining information as resource after class is over; backstopping and support; and availability to people outside of a university. Canvas (at Cornell) is not available to non-students (this may have changed recently), and Teachable has limitations for student interaction.  We are now looking at Moodle (with Mary McKellar) and Brightspace (with Stephanie Burnett as it is used at University of Maine) and  presented examples of each to the growers at the last advisory committee meeting.  The growers didn't have a preference for which was used. One potential complication is how to sign up students who are not part of Cornell or UMaine, and thus we have determined we will use Moodle.


Grower input

The grower advisory committee of Sue Adams and Mark Adams, Lori King, and Scott Longfellow attended the virtual advisory committee meetings.  At the first meeting, the draft topic list was provided in advance, and we went over it with them with plenty of time for discussion.  In general, they liked the proposed topics but had many good suggestions.  These were incorporated in the following versions of the topics and teaching plan which was presented at the second advisory committee meeting.  We hope to keep the same advisory panel for the actual presentation of the scout school.

In addition and on their suggestion, we decided to do a grower survey to determine what the current baseline information on who scouts, what information a scout should have, whether a grower would hire an independent scout or pay for, and give time off to, an employee to attend a scouting school.  The survey was sent out via greenhouse grower listservs in New York and Vermont. Fifty-seven growers responded. Fifty percent have all employees look for and report pest issues and only 8% hire an independent scout. The majority want scouts to be able to find and identify all types of pests and other problems (23% - multiple answers could be chosen). The other most common answers were ‘find information on pests and their management’ (19%), ‘provide management suggestions’ (17%) and ‘communicate well’ (17%). Only 13% would hire an independent scout, although 39% said ‘maybe’.  Suggested rates of payment varied a lot, from $12-$40/hour, with some listing a whole season price. Eighty percent would give an employee time off to attend a scouting school and 86% would pay for them to attend (no specific price was included in the question).  Scout school survey

At the second meeting on February 24, 2022, we presented the updated version of the curriculum.  There were no major changes requested but good discussion on how to make the program work, and interest in continuing with the project if we could get the next steps funded.

Research conclusions:

The objective of this project was to create a curriculum of grower-approved topics based on the needs of the industry to use in a Greenhouse IPM Scout School Certificate Program.


We created a list of 6 topics, in partnership with our grower advisory group and which will be presented as webinars, to cover the major needs of a scout working in an ornamental greenhouse.  Students wishing to receive the certificate will need to watch/participate in all the webinars and complete a set of activities. For each topic, we created a list of information that a student should know after the webinar, and a list of actions that a student should be able to do, if they participate in the hands-on activities detailed for each topic.


The approach for the curriculum is to be flexible enough to provide useful information for those just participating in one or more webinars as well as for students receiving a certificate in Greenhouse IPM Scouting. Another aspect of flexibility is the intent to record the webinars and post them, with resources, discussion boards and a Q and A board, so that students can interact with presenters and classmates asynchronously and still get the information needed.


The choice of platform to host the on-line resources and activities was limited by team experience and to which one most easily allows non-University students to register and have a way of interacting with the platform most easily.  Based on current information, we will use the Moodle platform available through Cornell Extension.


Participation Summary
4 Farmers participating in research

Education & Outreach Activities and Participation Summary

1 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools

Participation Summary:

3 Farmers participated
Education/outreach description:

The current project is the first step in creating a training program.  Therefore, the majority of the outreach will, by necessity, follow the creation of the IPM Scout School and certificate program, for which this curriculum is created, and occur after the completion of this project. Information from this project will be shared with grower cooperators (Adams, Longfellow and King) as described in the plan of work.


We do have an outreach plan for the training program, once created. The intended audience is existing greenhouse employees who wish to gain experience in scouting as well as those wishing to work in the industry for whom a scouting certificate would be a benefit. The training program will be advertised widely throughout the Northeast, based on the experience and connections of the project leaders and cooperators.  For example, Lamb has a greenhouse IPM listserv that reaches at least 500 growers and industry personnel in NYS and Sullivan and Skinner have run a very popular grower training program in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine for many years, with an associated email list.  In addition, we have connections with colleges and universities in the Northeast and can work with them to advertise the program to current students with an interest in working in the greenhouse industry.  We also have worked with state-based grower organizations who will help advertise the program to their members.


The objective of the outreach plan is to document increases in knowledge gain by scout school participants and their intent to, and ultimate success in, applying the knowledge gained to increase the use of scouting as an IPM practice in greenhouse production. In the longer term, participants of this program will be surveyed to meet the goal of documenting the benefits of adoption of this IPM practice.


Logic model category

Performance indicators (projected numbers (for fall and spring training))

Method to collect data


Number receiving training

Count participants in webinars, number participating in school and receiving certificates


Number and type of educational/outreach activities conducted

Count number of activities


Number of new or improved resources, including archived webinars

Count number of resources

Short-term outcomes

Number who learn new IPM information (100)



Pre/post tests as part of webinars, possible through Zoom


Survey participants at end of webinars, possible through Zoom


Student evaluation as part of certificate program at beginning and end of training


Count collaborations and evaluate whether they are continuing (direct conversation)

Medium-term outcomes

Number who intend to use knowledge gained (75)

Survey questions at end of webinars, possible through Zoom


Survey webinar participants and students after end of scout school (email)

Long-term outcomes

Number who report an increase in their ability to scout for pests (50)

Survey webinar participants and students after end of scout school (email)

Number of students who report employment as a scout or benefit of certificate in gaining employment (25)

Survey students after end of scout school (email with phone follow up if necessary)


Secondary survey after 3-6 months (email/phone)


Learning Outcomes

Key areas in which farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitude, skills and/or awareness:

Not applicable to this project

Project Outcomes

1 Grant applied for that built upon this project
1 Grant received that built upon this project
$10,881.00 Dollar amount of grant received that built upon this project
5 New working collaborations
Project outcomes:

Because this project has as its goal the development of a teaching curriculum, there is no intended change in practices for the cooperating farmers or other farmers at this stage.  Once the curriculum is initiated as part of the Greenhouse IPM Scout School, we believe that there will be changes in practice of those participating.  However, working with the growers on this project has been very rewarding and I consider it a success story.  They have been active participants and their input has made the curriculum stronger. I hope that the benefit works both ways.  Scott Longfellow emailed, in regards to being able to continue working with us on the second grant, "... it’s more a pleasure to be working with you and your team. Glad to be a part of it!"

Assessment of Project Approach and Areas of Further Study:

We believe that we answered the question we set out to study - can a curriculum for a relatively short program on greenhouse IPM scouting be developed that incorporates hands on training in an internet based, asynchronous course. This is a first step towards training IPM scouts for the greenhouse industry so it is designed to be used in the future.  Even as a stand alone curriculum, it has value in defining what would make a good IPM scout, distilled from the experience of the growers and Extension specialists who created it.  That interaction was key to the projects success - a strong team was developed who are interested and willing to carry the project forward to delivery of the program. The proof of the success of the program will be in actually using the curriculum, but we believe it has value to the region and beyond, as scouts trained to work in greenhouse situations are not common.

Information Products

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.