Enhancing Sustainability of Small Fruit Production in the Pacific Northwest Through Educating Producers on Consensus-derived Scouting and Decision-making Parameters

Final Report for SW06-013

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2006: $170,929.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2010
Region: Western
State: Washington
Principal Investigator:
Craig MacConnell
Washington State University
Co-Investigators:
Colleen Burrows
WSU Whatcom County Extension
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Project Information

Abstract:

Small fruits are a high value commodity in Oregon and Washington with a production value of $160 million. A Scouting Toolbox has been created for small fruits including consensus derived decision-making parameters to guide treatments and reduce risk. The toolbox was widely disseminated to producers through the region’s commodity commissions and at various educational events. The short-term outcome is the adoption of consensus based IPM scouting and decision-making thresholds by 20 percent of the acreage of small fruits in Oregon and Washington. Long-term impact is a majority of small fruits producers using IPM-based decision thresholds.

Project Objectives:

Overall project goal:

Enhancing sustainability of small fruit production in the Pacific Northwest through educating producers on consensus derived scouting and decision-making parameters.

Create a draft document:

Collecting and organizing the current usage/research/knowledge concerning scouting and decision-making into a draft document that will set the baseline for the workshop and stimulate further elaboration and discussion. It will also highlight the gaps and weak areas in our knowledge base.

Conduct consensus workshop:

Gathering a wide range of approximately 60 producers, researchers and industry professionals, including the producers and cooperators identified in proposal sections F & G, in a total of three (blackberry, raspberry, blueberries) one- to two-day facilitated discussions of scouting and decision-making parameters will ensure that those closest to the subject (producers) are heard and that their concerns, opinions and suggestions are incorporated into the project results. The inclusion of researchers and industry professionals will add to and balance the workshop discussions. This approach will produce a Scouting Toolbox centered on practicality as well as science.

Finalize document and produce results:

The names of the producers, researcher and industry professionals involved in the workshops will be noted in the final product. This inclusive endorsement will maximize the Scouting Toolbox’s acceptance among small fruit producers throughout the Pacific Northwest. The end product, given its broad backing, will increase the probability of producers using scouting as a tool in transitioning toward sustainable farming operations. The creation of the Scouting Toolbox follows the successful methods of Pest Management Strategic Plans. In 2003, Peerbolt Crop Management created the draft Caneberry PMSP document and helped researchers at Oregon State University produce the final document. Project proposal producers & cooperators (Sections F. & G.) will review draft products before production.

Provide a range of educational opportunities:

Producers gain knowledge in myriad ways. Some have little interest in attending meetings or workshops. Some do not understand the potential of the Internet and/or have no interest in it. Some learn from verbal interchange, others prefer a printed resource. The more ways the Scouting Toolbox is produced and disseminated, the wider its reach and the more probability producers will change their behavior toward sustainability.

Communicate knowledge gaps to researchers and commodity commissions (funders):

Develop and communicate areas of inadequate information to regional research faculty and organizations. Communicate similar information to potential research funding organizations.

Create periodic updating mechanism:

It is important to keep the scouting parameters and decision-making thresholds up to date to assure long-term success of this project. Updating printed materials is costly; however, it will be possible to inform producers of new findings during existing annual workshops, short courses and field days. Additionally, we will alert producers through the weekly email Small Fruit Update. As more growers become more familiar with the Internet, it may be possible to provide a web-based field-tested feedback mechanism so what is not working for producers on-farm can be incorporated into the updated Scouting Toolbox. We will actively seek funding to assist with this objective, which is outside the scope of this three-year project.

Introduction:

Small fruits are a high value commodity in Oregon and Washington that, according to USDA statistics (2005), have an estimated production value of over $160 million. Oregon and Washington produce 16% of the nation's blueberries, 83% of the nation's raspberries and nearly 100% of the blackberries. There are approximately 125 pests being controlled in small fruits by almost 100 different registered chemical formulations. Many of these controls are currently applied by calendar timing. The development and implementation of more effective scouting procedures and thresholds are necessary to ensure more accurate and economical use of these chemical tools, while simultaneously minimizing any environmental and human risk associated with their use and reducing the risk of development of resistance to these materials. This will enhance the economic viability of the small fruit industry in the Northwest by providing innovative pest control options in an increasingly restrictive regulatory environment.

A number of trends are driving small fruit producers to seek alternatives to their traditional pest management systems. These include environmental concerns (such as water quality), consumer preferences, increasing cost and/or loss of registration of chemical controls, increased likelihood of pest resistance with limited control alternatives and the escalating cost of labor. While significant research and funds have been spent to develop least toxic pest management protocols and sustainable growing practices, delays in implementation exist. Reasons for these delays include: (1) a lack of practical, crop specific and pest specific protocols, (2) a lack of support systems for alternative methods on farm, and (3) a lack of emphasis on incorporating economic sustainability within the research paradigm.

Failure to address and minimize the risks associated with changing control methods has contributed to the lack of buy-in to IPM methodologies by producers. To date, scouting has not been widely integrated into small fruit practices, although parameters exist for many key small fruit pests. A significant part of the problem has been the lack of decision-making thresholds. In addition, there has been no consensus document of decision parameters for growers to use. Hiring a scouting service or field consultant adds an addition cost to a grower’s bottom line with the perception of unknown results. Our project created a Scouting Toolbox for small fruits that includes consensus based decision-making parameters to guide and reduce risk. It will empower producers to conduct their own scouting or train their employees. The Toolbox will be available in print and electronic media and widely disseminated to producers in the Pacific Northwest. Educating a large number of producers in the use of scouting protocols and giving them action threshold guidelines will give them the information needed to more accurately time and/or reduce pesticide applications. The impact of this project would be to accelerate the use of scouting and whole-farm decision making as a primary tool of Integrated Pest Management. This would in turn enhance environmental quality by reducing unnecessary chemical applications and reduce the likelihood of pest resistance. This education will also help to protect worker and consumer health. As a result of this project, producers will realize an economic advantage through more accurate and effective control methods, as well as a potential reduction in pesticide usage. This project will also enhance the option of value-added marketing, leading to more profitable products emphasizing more sustainable farming practices.

There has been considerable research done and techniques developed for scouting for small fruits in the Pacific Northwest over the past ten to twenty years. However, written materials are inconsistent; some pests have received much attention while others have only a scattering or dated information. The most comprehensive work developed to date is the 1998, WSU Extension - Whatcom County's Nooksack IPM Project that published Integrated Pest Management for Raspberries - A Guide for Sampling and Decision-Making for Key Raspberry Pests in Northwest Washington for further adoption of IPM in red raspberry cultivation in northwestern Washington. Evaluation data indicated a significant shift to the adoption of IPM practices as a result of this project. However, some of the scouting information is in need of updating and there are some differences in key raspberry pests between northwest Washington and southwest Washington and Oregon. There is no comparable publication for blueberries or blackberries grown in Washington and Oregon. Opportunities do exist as, materials have been developed for other regions in the United States that can be referenced and/or adapted in the Pacific Northwest small fruits industry. Additionally, we are fortunate in our close association with researchers in British Columbia where, due to a more restrictive regulatory environment, considerable work has been done on scouting and decision guidelines for small fruits.

In researching SARE-funded projects, we found 72 that included the words “scouting” and/or “IPM”, less than 10 focused on berries and none concerned small fruits in the Pacific Northwest. However, a number of the SARE-funded projects spoke to the need for or implementation of IPM educational materials. Particularly interesting are “Educational Materials and Training that Foster Implementation of Ecologically Based Pest Management Decision-Making in Great Lakes Apple Production”, and “Delivery of Biological Control Information and Technology in Florida”. A search of the National Agricultural Library database found no information specific to scouting and small fruits. However two papers by John G. Richardson of North Carolina State University focused on innovative ways to disseminate information to producers. In searching the USDA-CSREES-CRIS research database, we found 50 reports that included “scouting” and/or “IPM” and “small fruits” or “berries”. The majority that spoke specifically to small fruits, focused on determining scouting or IPM methods. One project, “Integrated Pest Management in Vegetable Crops with Emphasis on Biological Control”, included the development of economic thresholds. We also found an interesting report from Texas A&M University concerning the training of college students in scouting protocols and management decision-making.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Colleen Burrows
  • Daniel Coyne
  • Anna & Tom Peerbolt

Research

Materials and methods:

A literature review and draft document was created in year 1. This included individual profile sheets for insects and diseases; each inculded a crop stage calendar corresponding to scouting activity, reasons for concern, identification, life cycle, scouting/monitoring protocols and the threshold for making a control decision. For caneberries, 37 profile sheets have been developed for raspberries and 35 profile sheets have been developed for blackberries. For blueberries, 27 profile pages have been developed. The document was reviewed by cooperators and responses were incorporated into the document in time for use at the consensus workshop.

The consensus workshop was held February 5-7, 2008 in Portland, Oregon. The first two days were focused on blackberries and raspberries, and the third day was focused on blueberries. Invitations were sent to 50 regional experts and industry leaders (7 Washington growers/industry personnel, 16 Oregon growers/industry personnel, 7 Washington State University researchers, 7 Oregon State University researchers, 5 USDA/ARS researchers, 3 organic growers, 5 Canadian researchers). Attendees included 20 participants for the caneberry workshops (3 Washington growers/industry personnel, 9 Oregon growers/industry personnel, 2 Washington State University researchers, 3 Oregon State University researchers, 4 USDA/ARS researchers, 1 organic grower, three representatives from Peerbolt Crop Management) and 22 participants for the blueberry workshop (2 Washington growers/industry personnel, 13 Oregon growers/industry personnel, 3 Washington State University researchers, 4 Oregon State University researchers, 2 USDA/ARS researchers, 1 organic grower, 3 Canadian researchers, three representatives from Peerbolt Crop Management).

During these workshops, the draft document was reviewed and revised. Pests were ranked at the beginning of each session with those that are more of an issue in a crop being ranked higher. These pests were reviewed first to ensure that the most time was spent on the pests that are the most concern. Scouting techniques for each pest were discussed and consensus was reached for most pests; for some pests, multiple scouting techniques were decided as relevant and included in the document. Consensus was reached on monitoring techniques and thresholds for most pests; some pest thresholds were dependent on processing type, method of marketing or price of crop. A typist was present to make real-time changes to the document during the session; the work was projected onto a screen for all participants to see.

Following the workshop, all comments and revisions were incorporated into the draft document. The document was emailed to all participants and cooperators for review and comments. These comments were incorporated into the document, and the written portion of the document was completed. Photos of pests were compiled to be included in the document.

During 2009 and 2010, the scouting and thresholds portions from the Scouting Toolbox document were incorporated into existing web-based IPM manuals for raspberry and blueberry and developed into a web-based IPM manual for blackberry. This information was also brought into the development of draft, field-durable guides for blueberry, raspberry and blackberry growers. These guides give scouting and thresholds for key pests at each crop-stage. These guides were given to several researchers for peer review.

Information from the scouting and threshold consensus workshops was disseminated at the Western Washington Small Fruit Workshop in December 2008, 2009 and 2010, attended each year by over 130 participants, the majority of which are growers.

In 2009 and 2010, crop stage-specific field days were held at a small fruit grower’s farm. These were held for the pre-bloom, bloom and pre-harvest stages. During these sessions, IPM methods were discussed for several key pests for that crop stage in blueberries and raspberries. The draft, field durable guides for blueberries and raspberries were also distributed and feedback from participants was collected. Over the six sessions in two years, approximately 40 growers attended, with many attending multiple events.

The draft field guides were finalized in fall 2010 and distributed to farmers at the December 2010 Small Fruit Workshop. They are also available for download on the WSU Whatcom County Website.

Ongoing feedback for the field guides and online IPM manuals will be received through feedback areas on each IPM Manual website.

Research results and discussion:

The consensus workshops were valuable in identifying scouting techniques used by many different participants, as well as treatment thresholds for some of the pests. Thresholds for several diseases and insect pests depended on factors specific to an individual farm, such as weather, other disease pressure, processing type and value of fruit. This made it difficult to establish set thresholds for certain insect and disease pests, but a description of how an individual farmer can start to develop their own thresholds was derived. These new thresholds and wording on developing individual growers’ own thresholds were incorporated into online manuals and field guides.

Crop stage-specific field days were well attended and appreciated by the growers and consultants who did attend. We incorporated talks on pests, diseases and weeds into these sessions, and growers indicated that they learned new ways to scout for and manage pests.

Products developed through this grant included web-based IPM manuals and durable field scouting and threshold guides for blueberry, blackberry and raspberry. The field guides were distributed at the field days and at the 2010 Small Fruit Workshop. We have received several comments acknowledging the quality of the work of these guides.

A web-based format of the IPM manuals allows us to update them when new information arises, as for the recent introduction of the pest Spotted Wing Drosophila. New monitoring and management techniques will arise for this pest, as well as others, and the web-based media will allow us to make changes when needed.

Research conclusions:

The consensus workshop consisting of a total of 34 participants was held, which brought together individuals from the whole Pacific Northwest region to discuss scouting and thresholds for key pests of blackberry, raspberry and blueberry. Agreement on practical measures of treatment thresholds and scouting techniques for these pests were made and recorded in a document. This document was used as part of a scouting toolbox available to producers, researchers and industry professionals.

Several growers in Washington were interviewed to determine the best way to distribute information that arose from the consensus workshops. Several indicated that a field-durable guide to scouting and thresholds to lead to decisions made through IPM would be valuable. A draft version of this was finalized in 2010.

Growers were able to learn about scouting techniques and thresholds for management for key pests in blueberry, raspberry and blackberry during several educational opportunities, including workshops and field days. Feedback on these events has been positive, with results such as “Thank you for the laminated scouting sheets and the field day," "I have already identified a disease and treated the area," and “keep doing these workshops.”

Growers were surveyed on IPM values and the perceived value of IPM on their farms during the 2008 and 2009 Small Fruit Workshop (Figure 1). In both years, over 90% of growers thought that IPM was profitable and helpful. There was a slight increase in the percent of growers surveyed who use IPM techniques in 2009 (95% vs. 89%). The percent of growers surveyed who regularly monitor for pests decreased from 97 to 88%. Fewer growers in both years (under 60%) stated that they keep records of pest levels in their fields, but most growers (over 90% in both years) make pest management decisions based on scouting.

Growers were also asked to rate, on a scale of 1-4 (4=very helpful, 3= somewhat helpful, 2=slightly helpful, 1=not helpful at all), several delivery methods on how they would help farmers implement more IPM practices (Figure 2). In both years, growers were most interested in more education and pest identification cards and posters. Some were interested in receiving record sheets and fewer were interested in hiring a private scouting service. There were slight increases in the percent of growers who rated these options at the “very helpful” or “somewhat helpful” in 2009 over 2008.
Many growers commented on the usefulness of the field durable scouting guidebooks and expressed that they would use them to scout in their fields.

Participation Summary

Educational & Outreach Activities

Participation Summary:

Education/outreach description:

Education and Outreach Events

Consensus Workshop on determining scouting methods and thresholds for key pests in raspberries, blueberries and blackberries. February 5-7, 2008. Portland, OR. Caneberry workshop attended by 20 people (growers, industry representatives, researchers) and blueberry workshop attended by 29 people.

Small Fruit Workshop. December 2008. Presentation by Craig MacConnell “Scouting Toolbox: A farmer and scientist consensus approach to IPM for berries in the PNW”. 136 attendees including growers, researchers and industry representatives.

Raspberry and Blueberry IPM Field Day – Pre-Bloom. March 31, 2009. Ferndale WA. Scouting and management techniques were presented for key pests at this crop stage. Attended by nine growers.

Raspberry and Blueberry IPM Field Day – Bloom. May 12, 2009. Ferndale, WA. Scouting and management techniques were presented for key pests at this crop stage. Attended by seven growers.

Raspberry and Blueberry IPM Field Day – Pre-Harvest. June 25, 2009. Ferndale, WA. Scouting and management techniques were presented for key pests at this crop stage. Attended by six growers.

Small Fruit Workshop. December 2009. Presentation by Daniel Coyne “Scouting Toolbox Recommendations for Cultivated Blackberries”. 128 attendees including growers, researchers and industry representatives.

Raspberry and Blueberry IPM Field Day – Pre-Bloom. April 2, 2010. Ferndale, WA. Scouting and management techniques were presented for key pests at this crop stage. Attended by 11 growers.

Raspberry and Blueberry IPM Field Day – Bloom. May 7, 2010. Ferndale, WA. Scouting and management techniques were presented for key pests at this crop stage. Attended by 10 growers.

Raspberry and Blueberry IPM Field Day – Pre-Harvest. June 18, 2010. Ferndale, WA. Scouting and management techniques were presented for key pests at this crop stage. Attended by 13 growers.

Small Fruit Workshop. December 2010. Presentation by Colleen Burrows “New Scouting Tools for Berry Crops”. 146 attendees including growers, researchers and industry representatives.

Publications:

Burrows, C.L., C.B. MacConnell, T.A. Murray, K.K. Schlamp. 2007 (updated in 2008, 2009,and 2010). Integrated Pest Management for Blueberries: A guide to sampling and decision making for key blueberry pests in Northwest Washington (website). http://whatcom.wsu.edu/ipm/manual/blue/

Coyne, D., G. Menzies, C. Burrows, and C. MacConnell. 2010. Integrated Pest Management for Raspberries: A guide to sampling and decision making for key raspberry pests in Northwest Washington (website). http://whatcom.wsu.edu/ipm/manual/rasp/

Coyne, D., C. Burrows, and C. MacConnell. 2010. Integrated Pest Management for Blackberries: A guide to sampling and decision making for key blackberry pests (website). http://whatcom.wsu.edu/ipm/manual/black/

Burrows, C.L, D.Coyne, and C.B. MacConnell. 2010. Scouting and Thresholds for Raspberry Pests and Diseases. Field guide available printed and online. http://whatcom.wsu.edu/ipm/manual/rasp/docs/Raspberry_SCOUT.pdf

Burrows, C.L, D.Coyne, and C.B. MacConnell. 2010. Scouting and Thresholds for Blueberry Pests and Diseases. Field guide available printed and online. http://whatcom.wsu.edu/ipm/manual/blue/docs/Blueberry_SCOUT.pdf

Burrows, C.L, D.Coyne, and C.B. MacConnell. 2010. Scouting and Thresholds for Blackberry Pests and Diseases. Field guide available printed and online. http://whatcom.wsu.edu/ipm/manual/black/docs/blackIPMfieldguide.pdf

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

Farmer Adoption

Growers were surveyed on IPM values and the perceived value of IPM on their farms during the 2008 and 2009 Small Fruit Workshop (Figure 1). In both years, over 90% of growers thought that IPM was profitable and helpful. There was a slight increase in the percent of growers surveyed who use IPM techniques in 2009 (95% vs. 89%). The percent of growers surveyed who regularly monitor for pests decreased from 97 to 88%. Fewer growers in both years (under 60%) stated that they keep records of pest levels in their fields, but most growers (over 90% in both years) make pest management decisions based on scouting.

Growers were also asked to rate, on a scale of 1-4 (4=very helpful, 3= somewhat helpful, 2=slightly helpful, 1=not helpful at all), several delivery methods on how they would help farmers implement more IPM practices (Figure 2). In both years, growers were most interested in more education and pest identification cards and posters. Some were interested in receiving record sheets and fewer were interested in hiring a private scouting service. There were slight increases in the percent of growers who rated these options at the “very helpful” or “somewhat helpful” in 2009 over 2008.
Many growers commented on the usefulness of the field durable scouting guidebooks and expressed that they would use them to scout in their fields.

This project reached an estimated 100 growers in Washington, Oregon and British Columbia. Number of acreages potentially reached is approximately 6,000 acres of blackberries, 9,000 acres of blueberries and 12,000 acres of raspberries in Washington and Oregon. Some farmers of these acres may not access this information, but it is impractical to determine the location of farmers accessing web-based material. At the 2010 Small Fruit Workshop, approximately 90 of each of the field scouting guides (raspberry, blackberry, and blueberry) were distributed. An additional 50 were sent to Peerbolt Crop Management for distribution in Oregon.

From this project, recommendations to farmers are to regularly scout fields for pests and diseases in order to understand the biology of these pests in individual fields. This can be helpful in determining thresholds that may be specific to a certain field or production type. Farmers should keep accurate records of scouting so that they can look back at previous year's notes to understand efficacy of treatment methods. Prior to making a treatment application, farmers should understand cultural practices that impact pest and disease occurrence, and how that treatment might impact populations of other pests, diseases and beneficial organisms.

Recommendations:

Areas needing additional study

This project identified several pests and diseases without available thresholds for treatment. In raspberries, these are: raspberry crown borer, phytophthora root rot, yellow rust, botrytis fruit rot and spur blight. In blackberries, these are: blackberry rust, cane botrytis, strawberry crown moth, purple blotch, dry cell syndrome, dryberry mite, redberry mite and raspberry crown borer. In blueberries, these are: cane botrytis, bacterial blight/canker, gall midge, leafrollers, godronia canker and tent caterpillar.

To understand how to further increase scouting and usage of IPM techniques in berries in the Pacific Northwest, it would be useful to study barriers to adoption of scouting and decision making techniques and consider suggestions to overcoming these barriers. This would involve social research of growers and field managers.
Further outreach, demonstration and education is needed for scouting techniques and decision making for treatment of pests and diseases.

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.