Ecologically based weed management: A manual and training program for farm advisors
The Project is developing a manual on ecological weed management and using drafts of the manual in a series of workshops for extension educators and other farm advisors throughout the Northeast. The present draft of the manual is 324 single spaced pages and covers weed biology, cultural and physical management methods, case studies of weed management on exemplary farms and basic ecology and management of 57 weed species. In previous years we conducted 5 workshops with a total of 102 attendees. We conducted one additional workshop in 2009 for 85 farmers and extension personnel, but only two extension educators attended. Three additional workshops are planned for 2010. Through critiquing drafts of the manual and assisting in presentation of workshops, 9 educators have recieved intensive training in ecological weed management. Most of these are now giving presentations on the subject to grower audiences (Over 2,000 during 2009) and all are engaged in a variety of other ecological weed management related extension activities. Workshops have been favorably received, with 80% of participants indicating that the workshop substantially or very substantially increased their knowledge of weed management. Over 82% indicated that their ability to solve weed problems was improved, and 90% indicated that they were likely to use the manual in their extension work.
Target 1. Of the 10 members of the project Advisory/Training Team, all will gain sufficient understanding of the ecological approach to weed management to convey the essential paradigm shift to growers. At least 8 will co-present workshops to extension personnel. All will use knowledge gained in the project in extension activities reaching a minimum total of 300 growers, and improve weed management on 30 farms during the lifetime of the project.
Target 2. Of 210 extension professionals who take the weed management workshops, 170 will answer an evaluation questionnaire, and of these 150 will perceive improved skill in ecologically based weed management. Ninety of these will have used that knowledge in extension activities.
Verification and assessment
Members of the project Advisory/Training Team will keep records of their use of the knowledge gained from the project in their work with farmers (e.g., newsletter articles, one-on-one advice etc.) from the time they first receive the draft manuscript. They will also note any related changes they perceive on the farms with which they have contact. At the ends of Years 2 and 3, the Project Coordinator will collect and compile these notes. In addition, at the beginning of year 3, they will answer a questionnaire to evaluate their level of knowledge acquisition.
Contact information will be collected from workshop attendees. At the workshops they will be asked to keep track of their use of knowledge gained through the workshop and reading of the manual. During the latter part of Year 3, they will be contacted to determine (i) whether they perceived improvement in weed management skills as a result of the workshop or manual, (ii) the extent to which they used the information in their work, and (iii) how many farms they know of that changed weed management practices as a result of their advice. Contact will be first by e-mail, with telephone calls to non-responders.
Note that the project is currently midway through project year 4.
“The authors will complete the draft of the core of the manual, and the project Advisory/Training Team will review it and provide feedback. (2nd half of Year 1).”
Six of the ten project Advisory Training Team members have returned comments on the draft manual.
“The Project Coordinator and members of the Advisory/Training Team will conduct three training workshops for extension personnel on the principles and implementation of ecological weed management. Copies of the draft manual will be distributed at these workshops and feedback solicited. These workshops will be attended by a minimum total of 70 people. (Year 1).”
One workshop on weed management was given for extension personnel in Lewiston, ME, 26 March, 2007 with 20 attendees. In addition, the talk on weed management used in the workshop was given to farmers in Hagerstown, MD, on 13 Jan. Thirty eight people attended, 3 of whom were extension educators. Many of the growers attending were leaders in the organic/sustainable agriculture community and can be expected to use the information to aid other growers.
“The authors will revise the draft based on comments of the Advisory/Training Team, and will complete descriptions of ecology and management of individual species. The revised manual will be reviewed by the Advisory/Training Team. (Year 2).”
The manual’s authors are still revising the draft based on advisor comments (see Milestone 5). During Project Year 2, two case studies were written for farms in the Northeast and these were reviewed by the farmers in question and the case studies revised based on their feedback. Additional case studies from other regions are waiting on information and contacts from SARE Outreach (the publisher). Additional species/species group entries were written and now cover a total of 57 weed species.
“Project leaders and members of the Advisory/Training Team will conduct 5 additional training workshops for extension personnel on the principles and implementation of ecological weed management. Copies of the draft manual will be distributed at these workshops and feedback solicited. These workshops will be attended by a minimum total of 140 people. (Year 2).”
So far we have conducted 6 of the originally proposed 8 workshops as follows:
Lewiston, ME, 26 March, 2007 with 20 attendees
Ocean City, MD,20 June, 2007 with 10 attendees
Ithaca, NY, 15-16 Nov., 2007 (given in two sessions) with 24 attendees
State College PA, 13 Nov., 2008 with 21 attendees
Waterloo NY, 9 Dec., 2008 with 29 attendees (CCA)
Richmond, VA, 27 Feb, 2009 with 85 attendees (but only 2 of the 20 extension educators expected actually attended)
In addition, the talk on weed management used in the workshop was given to three classes on organic farming and agricultural ecology at Cornell University in 2007 and 2008 to 31 students. Many of these students are likely to go into extension or become leaders in the farming community. Various versions of the talk used in the workshop have also been given at Hagerstown, MD on 13 Jan 2007 to 38 attendees; Syracuse, NY 13 Feb., 2008 to 65 attendees; Kansas City, MO, 26 March, 2008 to 120 attendees; and Syracuse, NY, 12 Feb. 2009 to 45 attendees. Each of these audiences included several extension educators and other agricultural professionals.
Thus, so far we have given 6 workshops at which draft manuals were distributed. These had a total attendance of 189 people, though not all were agricultural professionals. A full workshop with additional content is scheduled for 25 Feb 2010 in conjunction with the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) conference, but this audience will be primarily farmers. Two additional workshops are being planned for New Jersey and Delaware in conjunction with the SARE-NE Professional Development project “Organic Vegetable Production Weed Control Strategies: Integrating Precision Cultivation, Weed Biology and OMRI Herbicides.” Thus, it appears likely that we will surpass the Performance Target of eight workshops and 210 attendees, but we will probably reach only somewhere in the neighborhood of 140 agricultural professionals in workshops. We estimate, however, that at least an additional 30 agricultural professionals have been reached through related presentations.
Milestone 5: Text of the manual will be revised based on comments of the Advisory/Training Team and others. The draft will be submitted for publication (Year 3).
Work on the manual has been badly slowed by severe, prolonged illness in the Project Coordinator’s immediate family beginning in Nov 2008 plus precipitous loss of eyesight (winter 2008-2009) by the project coordinator. With visual support equipment obtained Aug 2009 the pace of progress on the book has increased. Completion is projected for Jan 2011.
Milestone 6: Records of extension activity by the Advisor/Training team and their observations on changes in farmer weed management will be compiled for evaluation (end of Year 2). Knowledge acquisition of Team members will be assessed (early Year 3).
Six of the advisors have demonstrated thoughtful reading of the manual by returning comments. Two of those who appear unable to do so have, however, played an important role in the project by helping organize and conduct workshops (see Milestones 2 and 4). A third has absorbed the material sufficiently to have now given four talks on ecological weed management to large grower audiences. Thus, knowledge acquisition by the Advisory/Training Team has been sufficient to create a cadre of experts around the region as planned. Two Advisors have dropped out of the project, but Mark Schonbeck has been added as an advisor. He has supplied extensive comments on the manuscript and helped organize and conduct the workshop on 27 Feb 2009 in Richmond, VA (See Milestone 4).
Records of extension activities of advisors were obtained and compiled (see Outcomes). Eight of the current nine advisors filed reports on 2009 activities.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
Evaluations of the workshop have been highly favorable. Workshops have been favorably received, with 80% of participants indicating that the workshop substantially or very substantially increased their knowledge of weed management. Over 82% indicated that their ability to solve weed problems was improved, and 90% indicated that they were likely to use the manual in their extension work.
Copies of the draft manual have been distributed to 207 people so far (65 copies for farmers paid for by the Virginia Association for Biological Farming). Most of these were distributed at workshops, but 7 were given to extension personnel who were unable to attend a workshop but requested a manual for use in their work.
Six advisors have now helped lead workshops for extension educators (see Performance Target 1). Advisors conducted extensive and diverse extension activitied on ecological weed management in 2009. In the last year, Advisors led 3 half to full day short courses on ecological weed management with 145 attendees plus 48 other presentations containing substantial ecological weed management content with a total audience of over 2,000. They produced 12 print and internet publications on ecologically based weed management, and advised over 200 growers individually through telephone or e-mail contacts. The audience sizes and number of individual contacts indicated above are conservative in that some advisors did not list audience size for some presentations and others indicated only the minimum number of personal contacts made per week. Although some of this activity would probably have taken place without the project, all Advisors have indicated extensive use of training materials produced by the project in their work. Several did not provide weed management advice prior to the project but now do so. Several Advisors indicated that they had instructed other cooperative extension personnel and other agricultural professionals on ecologically based weed management during the past year, either through presentations or one-on-one advice with particular problems. Thus, the Advisors have become resources for other professionals in their states, as envisioned in the project proposal.
We sent an e-mail evaluation of the project’s usefulness to the 54 attendees of workshops that had been held in 2007 (ME, MD, NY) during fall of 2008 and followed up with telephone calls to non-responders during winter of 2009. Only 26% responded to e-mail, but an additional 33% were reached by one or two telephone calls for a total response rate of 59%. Seventy five percent of respondents said that the workshop and manual had improved their weed management skills either “Moderately” or “A lot”. When asked how often they had used information from the workshop and manual in their extension work 66% said greater than 5 times and 25% said greater than 12 times. Sixty one % had referred to the manual more than 5 times in the last year. These educators estimated that they had reached over 827 growers through talks or direct contacts with information on ecological weed management and potentially over 21,000 through newsletter and magazine articles. Perhaps most significantly, these educators knew of 203 farmers and 55 home gardeners who had modified their management practices based on the educators’ advice on ecological weed management. These results indicate that the project is having a substantial impact on some educators and that this is translating into benefits for growers. We will be doing similar follow-up surveys of the other workshops during 2010.
Organic Research Associates
PO Box 5
Titusville, NJ 08560
Office Phone: 6097378630
University of Maine Cooperative Extension
Waldo Co. Extension Office
992 Waterville Rd.
Waldo, ME 04915
Office Phone: 2073425971
Director of Technical Services
Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
31 Anson Rd.
Greene, ME 04236
Office Phone: 2079464402
130 Ruckytucks Rd.
Stillwater , NY 12170
Office Phone: 5185834613
Lakeview Organic Grains
1443 Ridge Rd.
Penn Yan, NY 14527
Office Phone: 3155369879
Maryland Cooperative Extension
PO Box 219
Snow Hill, MD 31863
Office Phone: 4106321972
Senior Extension Associate
Cornell Cooperative Extension
IPM Program Office
PO Box 462
Geneva, NY 14456
Office Phone: 3157872422
The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station
153 Cook Hill Rd.
PO Box 248
Windsor, CT 06095
Office Phone: 8606834984
Organic Extension Educator
Northeast Organic Farming Association-Massachusset
131 Summit St.
Plainfield, MA 01070
Office Phone: 4136345024
Pennsylvania State Cooperative Extension Service
1282 Almshouse Rd.
Doylestown, PA 18901
Office Phone: 2153453282
Virginia Association for Biological Farming
439 Valley Drive NW
Floyd, VA 24091-2432
Office Phone: 5407454130