Progress report for SAL16-001

Project Type: PDP State Program
Funds awarded in 2016: $11,111.00
Projected End Date: 06/30/2017
Grant Recipient: Auburn University
Region: Southern
State: Alabama
State Coordinator:
Dr. Ayanava Majumdar
Alabama Cooperative Extension System, Auburn University
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Project Information

Abstract:

The Alabama SARE program has been instrumental in successfully starting and expanding the organic crop production movement statewide since 2010. With the high incidence of insect pests and diseases due to suitable weather, producers have created a pull on the program instead of Extension pushing information using a linear model of technology transfer. Educational materials developed from SARE funds have not only trained educators within the Extension System, but also benefited agencies such as the NRCS, FSA, and incubator farms that are using the IPM publications and websites quite extensively for relevant information. By collaborating with nonprofit and producer organizations statewide, the Alabama SARE program has expanded program impact but more needs to be done for training educators about protected agriculture using field demonstrations. This project plan includes strong train-the-trainer activities for Extension educators, technical assistance providers (nonprofit agencies), field agents, and key producers. Transferable IPM technologies include training on pest exclusion methods using shade cloths, super light insect barrier for deterring small insects, and organic insecticide tank-mixes for preventing insect outbreaks inside high tunnels. Adequate emphasis will also be provided in updating the High Tunnel Crop Production Handbook which is used a new producer training manual by educators across Alabama and adjoining states.

Project Objectives:

Obj. 1. Establishment of four HTPE demonstration sites with 40 or 50% shade cloth and organic insecticides for training Extension educators and service providers. We will focus on the correct installation of insect netting and integration of organic tank-mixes that prevent pest buildup inside high tunnels.

Obj. 2. Revise and update the High Tunnel Crop Production Handbook (and iBook) and Alternative Vegetable IPM Slide Chart with information on tank-mixes and premixes.

Obj. 3. Add on-demand and interactive content on electronic curriculum to train educators and growers to improve adoption of new technologies.

Advisors

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Karen Wynne (Educator)
  • Jayme Oates (Educator)

Education

Educational approach:

The Alabama SARE program has been instrumental in successfully starting and expanding the organic crop production movement statewide since 2010. With the high incidence of insect pests and diseases due to suitable weather, producers have created a pull on the program instead of Extension pushing information using a linear model of technology transfer. Educational materials developed from SARE funds have not only trained educators within the Extension System, but also benefited agencies such as the NRCS, FSA, and incubator farms that are using the IPM publications and websites quite extensively for relevant information. By collaborating with nonprofit and producer organizations statewide, the Alabama SARE program has expanded program impact but more needs to be done for training educators about protected agriculture using field demonstrations. This project plan includes strong train-the-trainer activities for Extension educators, technical assistance providers (nonprofit agencies), field agents, and key producers. Transferable IPM technologies include training on pest exclusion methods using shade cloths, super light insect barrier for deterring small insects, and organic insecticide tank-mixes for preventing insect outbreaks inside high tunnels. Adequate emphasis will also be provided in updating the High Tunnel Crop Production Handbook which is used a new producer training manual by educators across Alabama and adjoining states.  

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Field training of producers in high tunnel pest exclusion system and other IPM tactics
Objective:

Field training in High Tunnel Pest Exclusion system, biological control agents, and organic insecticide tank-mixes/premixes to producers, extension educators, and crop advisers. On-going efforts on insect monitoring and crop scouting will continue in this proposal.

Description:

HTPE system is a new method of low-cost pest management that opens the door for integrating natural enemies inside fixed structures. While HTPE training needs to be done as a long-term IPM strategy, Extension educators need training on organic insecticides as short-term pest management strategy with focus on new products and tank-mixes. Recently, we have completed studies on organic management of aphids using pest exclusion and approved insecticides that will be shared with educators and key producers. The insect pest monitoring project generates season-long pest migration data which is shared statewide via the IPM newsletter.

Outcomes and impacts:

About 642 participants were directly trained via 5 regional extension events, 4 hands-on workshops, 4 field days, and 2 producer conferences. Participants included 52% commercial producers, 24% urban farms and market gardeners, 12% NRCS and FSA personnel, and 12% crop advisers and other educators. Diversity index: 70% white, 20% black, 10% Hispanic and American Indians. We are helping 14 military veterans as beginning farmers. 34% participants surveyed use the IPM Communicator newsletters, 16% use the High Tunnel Handbook, and 28% use the Alternative IPM slide chart and Garden IPM Guide. Change in knowledge is 41% after training with biggest gain in the understanding of insect scouting practices. Overall alternative IPM adoption rate is 58% with six active farms using the high tunnel pest exclusion system and collaborating for on-farm research. 28 to 58% producers have started to use alternative insecticides judiciously after proper pest identification. Nearly 96% respondents were highly satisfied with the Alabama SARE supported training programs with $700 per acre crop improvement or savings based on 20 case studies reported via event surveys (total $14,000). Based on direct crop consultation by producers, the SARE program saved $939,600 crop on 10 small farms. These are all conservative estimates. Return on investment from the grant is 85:1 ($85 return for every dollar invested). The number of organic farms in Alabama has doubled since the SARE program was initiated and at least some of this increase can be attributed to the availability of new resources and momentum from the AU SARE initiatives. Impact videos, including two SARE-funded national videos, with producer testimonials is available on the Alabama Evaluation Toolkit website (http://www.aces.edu/anr/ipm/EvalToolkit/). 

Educational & Outreach Activities

10 Consultations
3 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
4 On-farm demonstrations
35 Published press articles, newsletters
1 Tours
14 Webinars / talks / presentations
4 Workshop field days

Participation Summary

15 Extension
78 NRCS
62 Nonprofit
487 Farmers/ranchers

Learning Outcomes

642 Participants gained or increased knowledge, skills and/or attitudes about sustainable agriculture topics, practices, strategies, approaches
372 Ag professionals intend to use knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness learned

Project Outcomes

4 New working collaborations
4 Agricultural service provider participants who used knowledge and skills learned through this project (or incorporated project materials) in their educational activities, services, information products and/or tools for farmers
487 Farmers reached through participant's programs

Face of SARE

Face of SARE:

The Alabama SARE program at Auburn University was initiated in 2010 and it has greatly evolved since then with expansion of research and demonstrations statewide. AU SARE program provides training to extension agents, crop advisers, and nonprofit educators via direct field training and webinars, regular pest alerts (Alabama IPM Communicator e-newsletter), bulletins and podcasts. There is a complex communication and evaluation strategy behind the entire program that has resulted in large scale information dissemination beyond state lines and careful documentation of outcomes and impacts. Alabama SARE is one of the most diverse educational programs that is well-attended by various communities across the state without any hindrance. The available website and the e-curriculum under development will allow further dissemination of information to producers who want to learn about sustainable agriculture. Some of the SARE-funded IPM publications such as the Alternative Vegetable IPM Slide Chart and the High Tunnel Crop Production Handbook for New and Beginning Farmers (also an iBook) are the most circulated educational publications in the Southeast. The future phases of the AU SARE program are aimed at new and beginning farmers who are returning from military service or from underserved communities who need more assistance in profitable farming and transitioning to organic systems.

487 Farmers received information about SARE grant programs and information resources
93 Ag professionals received information about SARE grant programs and information resources
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.