Greenhouse IPM Scout School: Online and Hands-on Training for Current and Next Generation Scouts

Progress report for ONE22-419

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2022: $29,105.00
Projected End Date: 07/31/2024
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

Project Objectives:

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

  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
  • 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
  1. 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.


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


Materials and methods:

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 1.15.23 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.

  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 will run from February 1- March 8, 2023 – 6:00-7:30 Wednesday evenings. It will be presented as a certificate program and webinar series at the same time, 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.

  • Webinars will be advertised individually as well as part of the certificate curriculum

The Spring Scout School and associated webinars have been 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.


  • 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.

  • 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 are using the teaching platform Moodle through Cornell for interacting with the certificate students.  For each week, there is 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. An example topic outline and screen shots from the Moodle course are attached at the end of this section.

  1. 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.
  • Many resources will also be available on the project webpage in association with archived webinars
  1. 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 to be provided to students includes a handlens, an Optivisor, a handheld wireless microscope, yellow sticky cards, flagging tape, the GreenhouseScout app, a bedding plant scouting manual, and examples of scouting checklists.

  • The activities will relate to the webinar topics.
  • 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.
  1. 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.

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.

Topic 1 for Scout School - outline (22 Nov)

Screenshots of Moodle

 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 2023 Scout School only.

 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.

There are 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.


Research results and discussion:

To date (1.23.23), there are 26 students signed up for the certificate program plus the 4 comped students.  We don’t necessarily know who the participants are at this point (we’ll include a questionnaire for the first assignment) but the certificate students include at least 1 undergraduate and 1 graduate student, and 1 Extension specialist. There are also 21 signed up for the webinar series, primarily growers as far as we can tell.

Participation Summary

Education & Outreach Activities and Participation Summary

Participation Summary:

Education/outreach description:

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.

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.