Training extension educators and local food professionals on sustainable vegetable pest management tools and techniques

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2017: $74,994.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2020
Grant Recipient: Iowa State University
Region: North Central
State: Iowa
Project Coordinator:
Dr. Ajay Nair
Department of Horticulture, Iowa State University


  • Vegetables: asparagus, broccoli, cabbages, carrots, cucurbits, garlic, greens (lettuces), onions, peppers, sweet corn, sweet potatoes, tomatoes


  • Crop Production: cropping systems, crop rotation, pollination
  • Pest Management: biological control, chemical control, disease vectors, physical control, row covers (for pests)
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture

    Proposal abstract:

    Developing capacity in the area of integrated vegetable pest management is critical in building sustainable vegetable production systems. The primary objective of this proposal is to train and educate county horticulturists, extension educators, local food professionals, regional food systems working group members, and industry and community leaders on integrated pest management (IPM) tools and techniques in vegetable production. These individuals are often at the front line interacting with commercial vegetable growers and market gardeners.

    Building capacity in these individuals in the area of pest identification, disease diagnostics, crop rotation planning, cover cropping, and IPM tools (sticky traps, scouting, beneficial insects, row covers, reduced risk insecticides, sanitation, resistant crop varieties, trap cropping, etc.) will significantly enhance services and support these individuals offer to vegetable growers. A long-term outcome of this object would include reduced response time and correct diagnosis of grower issues and effective implementation of IPM tools and strategies in our farming communities. In order to achieve project goals, we will organize statewide pest management hands-on training workshops, on-site pest management and diagnostic clinic at Amish and Mennonite auction houses, a pest management short course, and trips to regional fruit and vegetable conferences that include tracks/sessions on IPM in vegetable production. These activities will provide increased training and learning opportunities for our target audience and enhance their knowledge and understanding of IPM and related topics.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    We envision multiple outcomes from this project, although outcomes that affect behavioral changes are something we are shooting for. Short term goals of this project are to: 1) Obtain feedback on challenges and issues that extension staff and local food professional in the area of IPM in vegetable production systems, 2) Create awareness among extension personnel, government staff, agricultural professionals, and organization leaders about IPM tools and practices and ways to implement them in commercial vegetable production, and 3) educate and train agricultural professionals on various aspects of pest identification, disease diagnostics, crop rotation planning, cultivar selection, cover cropping, and IPM tools (sticky traps, scouting, beneficial insects, row covers, reduced risk insecticides, sanitation, resistant crop varieties, trap cropping, etc.) in vegetable production systems. We strongly believe that the broad spectrum of activities included in this project such as surveys, workshops, webinars, on-site diagnostic clinics, and online resources will serve to effectively disseminate latest and most up-to date information to growers, extension personnel, and stakeholders.

    Intermediate and long term goals of this project are to: a) Develop expertise among participants to better assist fruit and vegetable growers with questions on IPM in vegetable production, b) Develop diverse and resilient vegetable cropping systems by integration concepts of crop rotation, cover crops, fertility management, and soil quality and health, and d) Support the growing fruit and vegetable industry by emphasizing new and innovative production techniques that are key to maintaining long-term farm sustainability and productivity. Our overall goal is to train, educate, and create a critical mass of extension educators and agricultural leaders with expertise and knowledge in basics, fundamentals, and advanced IPM tools. These individuals will assist growers in designing crop rotation plans, adoption of cover crops, identifying pests, understanding crop nutrient needs, fertility management plans, and understanding the value of soil quality and biology. Such collaborations install confidence in growers who are interested in developing/practicing diverse cropping systems. We foresee a long-term impact of this project as it trains and educates new extension field staffs who were hired few years ago. Building up capacity by training junior extension agents will serve the long-term vision of this project which is to promote stewardship of agricultural sustainability.


    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.