An advanced school addressing integrated crop management of highbush blueberries
The primary objective of this project is to host a three-day workshop to provide comprehensive, science-based information on Integrated Crop Management of highbush blueberries. The core clientele for this workshop includes county agricultural agents, university personnel serving in IPM programs, private consultants, and growers. Priority will be given to persons who serve as advisors to blueberry growers in the Northeast. The workshop will include classroom sessions, a laboratory session on diagnosis of major pests, and a field tour to several blueberry farms. Training materials, including fact sheets, digital slides, and proceedings of the workshop, will be produced for distribution to all workshop attendees.
The classroom session will discuss latest information on site selection, soil requirements, field preparation, cultivar choice, planting, pruning, soil fertility management, water management, harvesting, insecticides, fungicides, herbicides, management of insects, diseases, weeds, and wildlife, IPM programs, and marketing. The laboratory sessions will cover the identification of insects, diseases, and weeds. The field tours will highlight production techniques and showcase the latest equipment. An expert panel will answer questions from the attendees. By providing comprehensive training to clientele who serve as advisors to blueberry growers, we will enhance profitability and sustainability of blueberry culture in the Northeast and throughout the U.S. Pre- and post-workshop surveys will measure changes in skills and knowledge level of core-clientele as a result of training received at the workshop.
Who Stands to Benefit: Cooperative extension personnel, staff of the state departments of agriculture, agribusiness consultants, and growers are the primary beneficiaries of this project. These personnel from New Jersey, other states in the Northeast, and the rest of the country are expected to benefit from the educational program during the project.
Highest priority will be accorded to training Cooperative Extension personnel and other personnel who serve in an advisory capacity to train commercial growers. Personnel in this category include, in addition to Cooperative Extension personnel, IPM personnel, agribusiness consultants, and state nursery inspectors. Lower priority will be accorded to personnel from institutions outside the Northeast region.
Approximately 100 people are expected to participate in the educational program envisioned in this proposal. Several Cooperative Extension personnel, primarily Rutgers Cooperative Extension County Agents, were consulted in developing our project. The leading blueberry County Extension Agent (Dr. Gary Pavlis) in New Jersey is a co-principal investigator of this proposal. The core curriculum for the educational program was developed in consultation with Dr. Gary Pavlis and his colleagues in Rutgers Cooperative Extension.
1) Of the approximately 100 core clientele who attend the educational program, about half will develop and deliver a high-quality educational program to blueberry growers involving blueberry culture incorporating elements learned at the advanced school.
Verification of how targets are achieved: Pre- and post-workshop surveys will assess the quality and content of the educational programs delivered by the core clientele. These surveys will provide information on the number of clientele who are incorporating the new educational tools in their extension programs. Surveys will also document improvements in the quality of extension programs of the core clientele.
1) Careful scrutiny of personnel involved in advising blueberry growers in the Northeast to identify appropriate personnel for receiving training. This process identified the 100 most appropriate personnel to attend the advanced school. Invitations then went out to these individuals. After several weeks, another 100 people were also sent invitations.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
A total of 68 people attended the Advanced Blueberry School and received science-based information on all aspects of highbush blueberry culture involving classroom, laboratory, and field sessions. Seminars and workshops involved scientists from Cornell University, Marucci Center for Blueberry and Cranberry Research and Extension, Michigan State University, North Carolina State University, Rutgers Cooperative Extension, Rutgers Experiment Stations, Rutgers University, USDA-ARS, and USDA-NRCS.
Pre- and post-workshop exams, which were identical in content, were conducted at 9 a.m. on March 30 and 6 p.m. on April 1, respectively. The 25 question exam involved multiple choice and true/false questions on subjects including insects, fungi, organic production, molecular biology, cultivars, weeds, and pesticides.
On average, there was a 31% increase in the number of correct responses on the post-workshop exam, compared to the pre-workshop exam.
Changes in correct responses based on pre- and post-workshop exams were the greatest on questions about breeding (34%, 79%, and 139%)and organic (14%, 63%, and 92%); there were inmprovements in all question categories except weeds and herbicides. This project will eventually also monitor changes in the sustainable production of this crop.
A table of exam results is available on request from the project manager.