Progress report for ONE22-419
The project seeks to ensure that trained Integrated Pest Management scouts are available to work in the NE greenhouse industry, improving the efficacy of pest management and reducing unnecessary pesticide applications, with the potential to positively affect the economic stability of the enterprise, the environment and human health
- Create, advertise, and implement an on-line training program for IPM Scouts (Scout School) including webinars, hands-on activities, and interactive discussion sessions advertised to students, existing greenhouse employees and other interested parties
- Short term impacts
- 30 people will gain knowledge from the Scout School by participating in the webinars, hands-on activities and discussion sessions
- 100 people will gain knowledge from participating in the webinars alone
- 15 people will achieve the certificate
- 75 will indicate intent to use the knowledge gained from the webinars or certificate program
- Intermediate impacts
- 25 people will report adoption of IPM scouting techniques learned
- 1 additional person will be employed as an IPM scout
- Evaluate the training program and the methods used to provide information and access a broad base of participants
- Continuing impact (increased knowledge and application of knowledge gained)
- 1 additional greenhouse IPM scouting school will be put on after the grant
Greenhouse production in the Northeast has a significant effect on the economy. In 2020, in 8 northeastern states (MA, ME, NH, CT, VT, RI, NY, NJ), the greenhouse, nursery, and floriculture industry had a value of $1,775 million in direct sales and $2,931 million in economic impact and provided 35,034 jobs (Farm Credit East 2020). In addition, NY and ME are in the top 10 states for greenhouse vegetable production (HortiDaily 2019). Due to the high value and aesthetic demands of the crop, 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) indicating the potential economic impact of the pests affecting floricultural crops. For these states, 34% of growers applied pesticides on a preventative schedule and 51% used scouting data to determine pesticide use. Most scouted as a general observation while performing routine tasks while only 20% deliberately went to a crop area to scout. There is clearly a need for additional scouting training in floriculture greenhouses to limit pesticide use to only necessary applications.
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 and insect identification and 37 would like to learn more about creating IPM plans, both supported by training in IPM scouting. They would also like additional training for their staff – 31% for disease and insect identification and 24% for creating an IPM plan (these values do not account for those without employees so may be underestimates). A survey of greenhouse growers in Maine, NYS, Vermont, done as part of the current NE SARE grant, showed that 79% of growers would give an employee paid time off to participate in a scouting school and 86% would pay for an employee to attend online scout training, so we believe there is grower support for this project.
Current conditions have forced us all to learn to educate and connect to growers and students through new and expanded on-line and active learning methodologies. Growers now have more experience using on-line tools 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. Regional experience with integrating active and hands-on activities with on-line learning in a distanced environment is available. The green industry is poised to expand with the increased interest in gardening and employees trained in scouting methods and IPM will be needed and appreciated. While we expect this window of opportunity to continue, we think that this is the best time to offer on-line training, as proposed in this project, combined with active learning methodologies to reach a greater number of growers than could be done with in person training.
We propose to fill these information and training gaps by providing an on-line greenhouse IPM scout school in a flexible manner to provide resources to the greatest possible population. The school would consist of a 6 week period of weekly on-line webinars plus discussion (1.5 hours per week proposed). A webpage will be created to allow easy access to information on the webinar and associated resources. Growers and others who want information can participate live in some or all of the online webinars, gaining pesticide recertification credits where possible, or can access the recorded webinars and resources through the project webpage asynchronously. Those desiring a certificate from the Greenhouse IPM Scout School would register, receive an equipment package to allow them to do the hands-on activities associated with each webinar topic, and then complete the requirements of webinars, discussion, reporting and hands-on activities. If students wanted course credit from their institutions, we could work with them to accomplish that.
The intent of this project is to reach a broad audience including people of color, women, the differently abled and other diverse communities, as all have the potential to train and work as greenhouse scouts. We will work to find ways of contacting and involving such stakeholder groups to ensure that all information is accessible to them. NYS Integrated Pest Management recently hired a Bilingual Project Specialist who can help us access Hispanic greenhouse workers. For this initial program, training will be offered in English, but we will work to determine if a Spanish language version would be useful in the future. We recognize the limitations of programs requiring internet connectivity and computer equipment, as well as potential economic barriers, but we will work to overcome these obstacles as we carry out the project. Project materials, including recorded webinars, will be available through the teaching platform and a project webpage to allow as many people as possible to access them asynchronously and still participate in the program. We will follow all Cornell’s requirements for accessibility of webinars, resources, and participation in all activities.
We believe that training more growers and employees in successful scouting practices will limit the unnecessary use of pesticides while improving pest management, and result in the production of higher quality greenhouse crops, greater safety for those working in the greenhouses and better environmental outcomes. We believe these factors support SARE’s desired outcomes of sustainability and resilience, quality of life for farmers, and profitability of farming in the Northeast.
- - Producer
- (Educator and Researcher)
- - Producer
- - Technical Advisor
- - Producer
- - Technical Advisor
- (Educator and Researcher)
- (Educator and Researcher)
- (Educator and Researcher)
As there is a perceived need for additional training in IPM scouting for greenhouse operations and few training programs available to train greenhouse scouts as an occupation, and as growers and students are becoming more used to active on-line education methods, we propose developing, presenting and evaluating an on-line Greenhouse IPM Scouting School leading to a certificate and with the objective of expanding the adoption of IPM scouting throughout the greenhouse industry.
We realize that not all those looking for information on scouting will want, need, or have the time or financial resources necessary to complete an entire Scout School program with requirements to complete. Therefore, we are creating a training program that can be completed for a certificate of completion, with registration and associated costs, but also accessed in parts for low or no cost and either live or archived to access asynchronously.
Updates for the 1.15.24 report are included in italics.
Objective 1: Create, advertise, and implement an on-line training program for IPM Scouts (Scout School) including webinars, hands-on activities, and interactive discussion sessions advertised to students, existing greenhouse employees and other interested parties
- College students for whom a certificate in IPM scouting would provide a hiring benefit
- Existing greenhouse employees for whom a certificate in IPM scouting is desirable for themselves or their employers
- Existing greenhouse employees or students interested in learning more about IPM scouting but for whom a certificate is not necessary or desired
(The latter would not necessarily participate in all aspects of the program.)
Training will be appropriate for both floriculture and vegetable greenhouse operations. Advertising will be through lists/listservs of growers run by the PD and cooperators, social media, faculty at Universities throughout the NE, farmers’ organizations. See Outreach section for more information on advertising to a broadly diverse population.
Proposed training methodology for the certificate program
A draft of the curriculum is provided in Appendix 1.
- A series of webinars on topics relevant to IPM scouting
- These will be presented using Zoom. Topics will be stand-alone but also part of the interconnected curriculum. There are 6 proposed based on the curriculum previously developed.
The first Greenhouse Scout School ran from February 1-March 8, 2023 – 6:00-7:30 Wednesday evenings. The second Greenhouse Scout School ran September 21-Oct 26 - 6:00-7:30 Thursday evenings. Both were presented as a certificate program (6:00-7:30) and a series of 1 hour webinars at the same time (6:30-7:30), with certificate students getting the full 1.5 hour program with some programming just for them, and both groups participating in the same hourlong webinar. Webinar attendees could sign up for 1 or more webinars. Certificate students attended (live or recorded) all 6 sessions.
- Webinars will be advertised individually as well as part of the certificate curriculum
The 2023 Spring Scout School and associated webinars were advertised through grower listservs in NY and VT, through presentations given by Lamb and Sullivan, through teaching faculty at Cornell, UMaine, University of Vermont, and the State Universities of NY at Cobleskill and Morrisville. The 2023 Fall Scout School and associated webinars were advertised through the same methods, plus NYS Integrated Pest Management Facebook page.
- Recorded webinars will be available on Moodle for certificate students who must miss one, and on the project webpage for other interested users. The project webpage will be linked to websites associated with all key personnel as desired and can be shared with others.
We are working with the webmaster of NYS IPM to find a suitable place to post the webinars for those just registering for the hour long webinars. The NYS IPM YouTube channel may be the best option but we may need a different option to include the related resources. We have not yet sorted this issue out. For people who paid for a webinar and missed it (Spring and Fall), I provided the recording through Cornell's Video on Demand. i provided information as pdfs at the end of the Fall webinar series. We were a little dismayed to find one of the pdfs posted on-line rather quickly. While we think the information is valuable to everyone, we want to provide some exclusivity for at least a while to those who paid for it.
- Webinars will be created and presented by project staff but also may include other specialists on specific topics. Identification of speakers and the timing of the webinars will be done at the beginning of the project. Webinars can include previously recorded video for demonstrations of tactics and the creation of those videos will also take place at the beginning of the project.
For sections 2-4:
We used the teaching platform Moodle through Cornell for interacting with the certificate students. For each week Spring and Fall, there was a forum for Q&A, a place to post webinar materials, an activity that students must complete, a ‘did-you-understand-the-material’ quiz, and additional resources relating to the week’s topic. Mary McKellar has been invaluable in helping us learn to use Moodle. Based on Mary's evaluation of the Spring quiz responses, we learned that students were using them more than we expected, as they are not required. For the Fall program, we improved test questions, based on her suggestions, and doubled the number of questions available. An example topic outline and screen shots from the Moodle course are attached at the end of this section. Based
- Collected resources to support the information in the webinars and to use as continuing references for the scouts
- Lists of electronic references will be provided to all participants of the webinars and available on the teaching platform. Some hard copy references (the Northeast Greenhouse or Cornell Guidelines, for example) will be provided only to those registered for the certificate program.
As this is primarily a scouting course, we did not provide hard copies of the the Northeast Greenhouse or Cornell Guidelines, which primarily focus on management. We continue to update the reference lists available to certificate students through Moodle as we find new resources or improved versions of existing resources or if links to electronic sources break. There is a separate resource page for each week's topic. We provided webinar students with some of the same resources.
- Many resources will also be available on the project webpage in association with archived webinars
This hasn't been done as we don't have a location for the archived webinars yet.
- Hands-on activities done individually by Scout School participants in cooperation with a local greenhouse or other approved site.
- Students registering for the certificate program will receive a set of equipment, including magnification tools, sticky cards, etc. that will be used to do the required activities.
The equipment we provided to students in the Spring was a handlens, an Optivisor, a handheld wireless microscope, yellow sticky cards and clothespin holders, flagging tape, a mockup of the GreenhouseScout app as we could not provide the actual version, a bedding plant scouting manual, practice insects on sticky cards and examples of scouting checklists. Based on what students said they did not use in Spring, for Fall we included less flagging tape, no app, and only electronic versions of the checklists and the bedding plant manual, which we are trying to get reprinted.
- The activities will relate to the webinar topics.
For both Spring and Fall, activities were similar and certificate student were required to complete at least 5. We improved the timing for the Fall session. The activities were: 1. a set of questions to introduced themselves to us and other students and information on where they will scout plus a map of the scouting location, 2. placing and evaluating sticky cards in the scouting location, evaluating the plants at the site, and practicing with their magnification devices (pictures submitted), 3. checking sticky cards and potato wedges and finding information on insects and diseases on one of the crops they were scouting, 4. updating the scouting map and creating a scouting form for that greenhouse, 5. posting their local Extension office and favorite sources of scouting information as part of creating a scouting resource collection and scouting the greenhouse for weeds as well as examing the plants, and 6. fill out a class evaluation.
- Students will report on their activities through discussion boards (see Appendix 1)
- McKellar and others have experience developing such activities. Creation of the activities will also take place in the first 4 months of the project.
- Project staff will assist participants with identifying greenhouses to work with.
During the Spring session, when it can be difficult to find an operating greenhouse in January, students were very imaginative in finding plants to scout - including school plant collections or greenhouses, a nursery in a grocery store and houseplants. In Fall 2023, students scouted commercial greenhouses and a botanical garden greenhouse.
- Interactive sessions to answer questions, compare experiences, encourage networking between participants and provide a framework for discussion and learning.
- Interactive sessions will be done using the Moodle teaching platform and can be live or on-line.
Instructors interacted with both certificate and webinar students through the live sessions in Spring and Fall 2023. The certificate sessions extra half hour included a set time for questions, as well as at the end of the webinar. There is a lot of information provided and it can be hard to fit in an actual discussion of a topic, especially for webinar attendees. We offered them our emails if they had further questions. For the certificate students, the online forums worked well to ask questions and get responses from all the instructors on a quick turnaround time.
Note: Accessibility accommodations required by Cornell will be followed on webinars, resources, advertising, interactive sessions and any other activities. We will strive to make this program available and accessible to as broad a range of communities as possible.
Technological support needed: Cornell supports Zoom for video conferencing and Moodle as a course management system (teaching platform). The University of Maine supports Brightspace as a course management system. Project participants have experience with both. Cost of additional software as needed is included in the budget.
Timing of IPM Scout Schools
The IPM Scout Schools will be presented in early spring 2023 and in fall 2023 to learn the best time to offer future scout schools. The different time periods have advantages and disadvantages in available greenhouses/crops and competition with other activities. It may be that early spring works best for growers and fall works best for students, but we are proposing to do one of each to test the waters.
This report relates to the Spring and Fall 2023 Scout Schools.
Objective 2: Evaluate the training program and the methods used to provide information and access a broad base of participants
There are 2 aspects to evaluating the Scout School: Input from the grower advisory committee and input from participants in the webinars and the certificate program.
In Spring 2023, there were 4 students comped in to provide us with feedback on the course – 2 graduate students, 1 non-student and 1 grower. We have invited the grower advisory committee to participate in as many programs as they wish in order to provide feedback
The grower advisory committee will meet with the project staff throughout the project but in particular after the completion of each scout school. We don’t expect them to participate in the entire school program, but they are welcome to attend any webinars or view student reporting, etc.
Evaluation of participants will be through surveys. For those participating in individual webinars, we have had success with Qualtrics surveys linked through the chat, particularly if they are required for pesticide recertification credits. Those surveys will primarily measure knowledge gain and intent to apply information. For those participating in the entire certificate program, there will be a final evaluation, as well as questions throughout the program. In addition to knowledge gain, we will include questions to determine the success of the various aspects of the school. Both populations will be surveyed after the end of the program, using emails gathered at registration, for intent to apply knowledge and, in particular, if they are employed as scouts in greenhouse production.
Online Qualtrics surveys were used for both sessions, with separate sets of questions for certificate and webinar attendees. It is much easier to get responses from the certificate students than the webinar attendees.
(Specifics on number of farmers participating as noted above - 92 greenhouse owners and employees over Spring and Fall 2023 certificate and webinar programs, plus advisory committee members)
In Spring 2023 (Feb-Mar), there were 28 certificate students (21 greenhouse owners/employees, 6 student - graduate to high school and 1 Extension educator) and 46 people who attended at least one webinar (41 greenhouse owners/employees, 5 other plant industry). In Fall 2023 (Sept-Oct), there were 8 certificate students (3 greenhouse owners/employees, 1 student, 1 Extension educator, 1 other plant industry and 2 Master Gardeners) and 23 people who attended at least 1 webinar (all greenhouse owner/employees).
The following information is from the evaluations completed by the certificate and webinar students for the 2 time periods. Certificate and webinar evaluations are similar but not exactly the same as some questions weren't relevant. It was much easier to get certificate students to fill out the survey and the numbers for the Fall classes were quite low. Also, I recognize that evaluation completers are self-selected and possibly biased. However, I believe there is useful information in the responses. In some cases we made changes based on the Spring responses for the Fall classes so the two series are not identical although in large part the same.
Spring 2023 Certificate students (26 responses)
- As self selected:
- 20 greenhouse owner/worker
- 7 students
- 2 educators
- Students would pay $300-500 for the cours
- Best times to find a greenhouse to work in
- March/April with Jan-Feb and Sept -Oct tied for second
- With comment – harder in busier growing season
- Majority liked the time of day and 1.5 hours and 6 sessions - some would go as high as 8, none below 5 sessions
- Most would consider a 2-3 day in person scout school, with the majority saying yes, only if it was nearby
- Students didn’t mind the hybrid certificate/webinar system
- We provided a box of equipment – students thought we gave them too much flagging tape, not enough sticky cards
- Some suggested some type of text but all had different takes on it
- Moodle was okay as a teaching platform even when a little frustrating
- They wanted help on embedding pictures and getting into Moodle initially, and how to set it up so you could tell if your questions were answered in the forums without looking at all the entries again.
- We added these help documents for Fall 2023
- Students liked all the topics
- They wanted to add management information, including how to use biocontrols, although this is advertised as training in scouting
- There were no clear preferences on how the topics were organized (mixing disease and insect sections or not, etc.)
- Students thought the recorded sessions were easy to use
- Providing pdfs of presentations before class would have been useful – which we did - earlier - in the Fall
- Almost all students used the references
- Most students liked and used the Q&A forums and the quizzes
- Most thought the assignments were helpful, some wanted more
- Favorite assignments – sticky cards and potato wedges and mapping the greenhouse
- Most helpful aspect of the course was most commonly stated as having all the professors together each session and the openness of sharing questions and answers in person and through the Q&A
- Almost all would recommend this to someone else or take it again.
- We maxed certificate students at 30 – number wasn’t important to students.
Spring 2023 Webinar students (22 responses)
- As self selected:
- 19 greenhouse grower or employee, 1 student
- Overwhelmingly preferred January-February, 6-7:30 for class
- 1-1.5 hours was preferred
- No consensus on number of sessions, with most responding that it didn’t matter as they only took the ones that they wanted/could do
- Fewer were willing to do an in-person 2-3 day training and those who were wanted it nearby
- Students didn’t mind the hybrid system
- Students wanted to keep all the sessions ( but only take those they want/can as stated above…)
- Similar to certificate students, most wanted to add management information
- Most like the pace and mix of information
- What they found most helpful =- visuals and real world examples
- What they would like – more time per topic
- Everyone would take it again or recommend it to others
- Pesticide recertification credits are very important
Fall 2023 Certificate students (7 responses)
- As self selected:
- 2 greenhouse employees
- 2 students
- Considered $300 about right as price
- January-February and November-December tied for preference based on finding a greenhouse to scout in
- Most liked 6-7:30
- 1-2 hours about equal by choice
- 6-8 sessions about equal by choice
- No strong preference on having an in-person training – and more of this group said no or maybe than in spring
- Hybrid system was not a problem
- These students used all the equipment and thought it was all about the right types and numbers
- Most had no problems with Moodle once they got into it and got started
- The majority thought we should keep all the topics and had no suggestions for additional ones, except more time for each topic, which also was evident in the answers on the organization of the classes
- All found watching the recordings easy and most looked at or printed the pdfs of the presentations before class. All used the resources and most found the posts in the Q&A useful. All did the quizzes and found the assignments useful – again several liked the mapping best.
- Best aspect of the course – diversity of knowledge and accessibility of the instructors and having them all present each week
- Several wished we could have one in-person meeting – to meet everyone and to watch a scout in action
- All would take it again or recommend it
- No consensus on whether more students would have improved the class or not
Fall 2023 Webinar students (13 responses)
- As self-selected
- 13 greenhouse growers or employees
- 1 student
- January-February selected by almost as many as November–December - about half also selected September-October as the best time to hold class
- Majority selected 6-7:30, almost half also 7-8:30
- 1-1.5 hours most preferred, a few said 2 hours
- Most liked having 6 sessions, while some indicated that the number of sessions wasn’t important as they could take the ones they wanted/had time for
- Most said no or maybe to an in-person 2-3 day progam, some said if it was nearby
- The hybrid program wasn’t a problem
- All said keep all the topics – the majority liked having an insect and a disease each week and about half liked the pace and mix of information
- The most helpful aspect of the course was the mix of information in each session
- Most wished there was some way to rewatch the information (this group received pdfs of the sessions at the end of the series)
- Most would recommend it or take it again because of the breadth of information
- Most appreciated the information but also though pesticide recertification credits were important.
Based on the results to date:
-Spring is a better time to offer the class. We are teaching it again in 2024 and moving it slightly later in February in order to make it easier to find a greenhouse, especially in more northern regions. While there were lots of votes for January-February, it is difficult to find open greenhouses then. November-December gets difficult with greenhouse availability and holidays. We understand that we are balancing between times when growers are open and are too busy to take the class.
-The certificate/webinar hybrid system doesn't bother students. It makes the information more available to a wider number of people.
-6 sessions seems about right to most people. We will try adding one more for the certificate students in the middle of the set to add an interactive activity.
- While students would like more time for each topic and for questions, which we appreciate, they didn't always follow that up with suggesting longer sessions. An hour and a half is a long time to pay attention even with a break after the first half hour to let webinar students in and splitting the session up into different topics. We could add an optional time at the end to let people ask more questions, which we did to some extent in the Fall.
- The cost is about right and the equipment provided is usually appreciated. Some suggested making it optional for a lower price but by everyone having the same equipment, it makes doing the assignments easier. We did send more sticky cards and less flagging tape in the Fall.
-Overall Moodle worked well, once everyone got in. It is not an inherently obvious system and Moodle is a little clunky so we were impressed that students did as well as they did, especially as many had never used a teaching platform. We have added additional help documents and need to emphasize where people can find them.
- The assignments, quizzes, Q&A forums, and references were used and appreciated.
- Because there is so much information provided, we appreciate the desire of the webinar students to have some way to review it. Certificate students get pdfs they can review before class and recordings they can watch after class. We may return to the idea of the NYS IPM YouTube channel as an option, although reviewing the transcript and accessibility issues need to be considered.
- Pesticide recertification credits are important. They are available to both certificate and webinar students and we have figured out how to have them for NYS and the New England states. If we have students from other states, we will have to learn how to make the classes credit-worthy.
-Most would recommend the class to someone else or take it again. In general, having all the instructors present each week and available to students, and the breadth of information were rated highly.
Education & Outreach Activities and Participation Summary
Because this project is a training program rather than a research project, outreach is built into all aspects of the project. There are some additional methods to share the mechanics of the program more widely once it is finished.
The first necessity is to reach the audiences for both the Scout School and the associated webinars – without which the project will not work. We have experience working with grower organizations in Maine, NYS, and Vermont to advertise to a traditional grower audience. We also have listservs of our own that reach growers as well as multipliers like County Extension Educators and associated industry representatives. Because we are on college campuses, we also have the potential to reach some student audiences. We all have contacts at other colleges and Universities that we can use to help spread the word (for example, Lamb has taught classes at State University of NY at Cobleskill and can advertise through those contacts). It is more difficult to reach the underserved populations who might be interested in this training as they are less likely to be on a listserv or in an organization. We have all started to work on this problem in our programs but have not really met the need. Each University involved in this project has some programs and personnel who could be accessed to help reach these more diverse audiences. For example, Cornell has a Farmworker Program, and Urban Agriculture Program Work Team and the Cornell Small Farms program. In addition to finding the audience, we also need to provide means to make the training as accessible as possible. Again, there are University resources to assist with this.
After the first Scout School in early 2023, we will present the initial findings to grower audiences through Field Days and other grower events. The timing for this is a little difficult as many events are held in the late winter before greenhouse operations get too busy and the second Scout School will be held in Fall 2023. There are some summer events, however, like the Floriculture Field Day and the IPM In-depth held in the summer at Cornell where we can extend information to growers. And as the school is intended to continue beyond the grant, presentations at the NY Winter Greenhouse Schools and the Tri-State IPM Educational program still will have value as outreach.
At the end of the project, project results will be compiled and evaluated for publication in a variety of journals, including trade and Extension journals. This level of outreach may be more useful for expanding the Scout Schools to be held after the grant period ends.