Progress report for SAL19-001
Alabama SARE program is a strongly recognized sustainable agriculture program statewide and regionally. Within Alabama, this program is supported by 15 regional extension agents (REAs) and county extension coordinators (CECs); as a team Alabama Extension is able to extend the benefits across the state. Currently, over 1000 small/beginning farmers and market gardeners benefit from the program annually, mainly via in-depth workshops and high impact publications. This AU proposal aims at continuing to expand the focus on the high tunnel pest exclusion and biological control aspects since weather was prohibitive last year to carry on demonstrations and training. The Urban Farm IPM toolkit (wheel slide chart) developed in 2018 has become very popular among participants and it recognizes SARE as a funding source. We propose to continue revising and re-printing additional slide charts with new funds and use it for train-the-trainer (TTT) and key farmer training (KFT). We have several new CECs and Extension Specialists in the Alabama Extension team that will be benefited from the TTT activities.
Overall project objectives for 2019-2020: All SARE TTT events generally incorporate crop production,
irrigation, pest management, and food safety training since we have specialists and REAs with certain
specializations. All events are evaluated carefully for quality and short-term impacts; these are reported
annually to SARE. Following are the proposal objectives:
Obj#1. Continue TTT and Key Farmer Training.
Organize three vegetable production/IPM workshops for training Extension personnel and technical assistance providers (TAPs) in conjunction with key farmers. These workshops will utilize the SARE-funded on-farm high tunnel IPM
demonstration plots that will be easily accessible for attendees. All attendees will scout crops for pest and learn how to release beneficial insect species in netted high tunnels, discuss best management practices, and food safety and integrated pest management (IPM) tactics.
Timeline: July 2019 to Oct 2019
Obj#2. Revisions to the Urban Farm IPM Toolkit and High Tunnel Crop Production Handbook.
We have now developed the Urban Farm/Market Garden IPM Toolkit (in picture earlier) that has 17 crops (or crop groups) listed with 30 major pest species listed in color pictures. By turning the overlapping wheels, a producer can match the crop with insects for finding insecticide recommendation visible in small windows. This IPM toolkit is a great educational tool for train-the-trainer meetings with immediate utilization of the resource in the 2018 crop production season. In
this proposal we intend to revise this and publish additional copies to make them available regionally to producers and market gardeners near urban centers. We will also revise the High Tunnel Crop Production Handbook (first published in 2014) with new chapters on food safety, marketing, organic pest management including pest exclusion system and biological control tactics, and pesticide safety/spray calibration that are critical for small producers to know.
Timeline: August 2019 to March 2020
Obj#3. Complete the Farming Basics Phone App for TTT and grower education.
We had delay in developing our Farming Basics Phone App project due to personnel changes and technology shift
that we didn’t anticipate. A panel of REAs, CECs, and Specialists along with Program Assistant (Ann Chambliss) are assisting the PI with completion of this project in March 2019 after initial testing (we are in beta-testing phase right now). REAs and CECs from four Extension teams, TAPs and key producers will be initially trained in the use of the phone app which has major functionalities along with information stored native within the app. In 2020 (post-release) we will continue to provide updates to the app which will be available on Apple and Android devices.
Timeline: July 2019 to December 2019
In a typical year, the Alabama SARE program at Auburn University carries out capacity building educational activities for extension educators, crop advisers, and key farmers. Our educational approaches for capacity building includes: 1.) Field demonstrations on research stations and commercial specialty crop farms to provide hands-on training; 2.) SARE-funded IPM slide charts and Extension bulletins available in digital and print formats; 3.) Digital content (IPM videos, social media channels, Farming Basics phone app, etc.). All materials supported by SARE acknowledge the program distinctly.
Education & Outreach Initiatives
To provide detailed training on the three levels of pest management (cultural/pest exclusion/biorational methods)
Regional Extension Agents and Key Farmers partner together to establish demonstrations on improved vegetable production and pest exclusion system which results in rapid increase in awareness and skill levels. We completed 2 in-service training events at two locations for extension reaching over 40 educators. We also completed 12 detailed workshops at various locations that reached 444 small producers, many mentor and beginning farmers that needed the information and training in pest management practices.
Increase in awareness about SARE program resources and IPM tools is over 90%. Adoption rate for IPM practices ranges from 25% (trap crops & pest exclusion systems) to over 90% for pest/diseases scouting practices.
The Farming Basics Phone app along with website, blogs articles, videos and social media based information releases are important educational tools today. Educators and producers need constant training on the proper use of relevant information.
We developed and released the first version of the Farming Basics Phone App with this funding. SARE is acknowledged in this peer-reviewed product.
The Farming Basics app from Alabama Extension is a gateway of information for small and beginning farmers. The user-friendly app includes:
- horticultural crop descriptions
- information about major insect pests and diseases
- general management tactics
- a fertilizer and irrigation calculator to assist in saving beginning farmers dollars on inputs
Clear pictures depict each crop, insect, and disease. Other features include crop and pest alerts, location services, with contact information for Extension regional agents, and an activity calendar linking to upcoming meetings and field days. This app is available for iOS and Android devices.
Educational & Outreach Activities
Increase in awareness about SARE program resources and IPM tools is over 90%. Adoption rate for IPM practices ranges from 25% (trap crops & pest exclusion systems) to over 90% for pest/diseases scouting practices. Participants really liked the Farming Basics Phone App as a local tool to find common insects and call their extension agent from the app.
Face of SARE
Alabama SARE website is a well-known and utilized resource for producers and educators. Factsheets and educational videos are regularly added to the ‘Resources’ tab. We have recently added a training module on the high tunnel pest exclusion system which is receiving wide publicity. The Alabama SARE website is also interlinked with three other websites that the PI maintains resulting in wide publicity and usage. We put a lot of effort in program publicity in order to promote participation from educators and small producers without bias.