- Crop Production: crop rotation
- Education and Training: demonstration, extension
- Pest Management: botanical pesticides, flame, mulches - killed, mulches - living, physical control, mulching - plastic, cultivation, precision herbicide use, mulching - vegetative, weed ecology
- Production Systems: general crop production
Small-scale organic farmers are challenged by weeds in efforts to produce vegetable crops profitably. Some vegetable crops are successfully produced utilizing plastic mulch as a weed barrier. Other crops such as broccoli and sweet corn in instances are produced without plastic barriers or other mulches. Plastic mulches have issues associated with use and disposal. Organic vegetable crop producers rely on nonselective natural products requiring multiple precision applications to small weeds. Mechanical cultivation by hand hoeing or tractor mounted cultivation is another approach utilizing experienced labor. Successful weed control programs require that farmers have extensive knowledge on all aspects of weed management including weed biology, precision cultivation and herbicide application. This project expands upon previous SARE projects utilizing video, PowerPoint and print addressing cultivation and precision herbicide application. The project proposes a “hands-on” training program for agricultural educators. Interaction between participants will enhance program content including farmer input. Vegetable crops will be established with different growth characteristics such as squash, sweet corn, snap beans and leafy greens. A one-day hands-on training program will incorporate precision cultivating techniques and application of OMRI herbicides utilizing specially designed sprayers enhancing precision application. Pre-plant weed management programs will be demonstrated including the following: plots addressing weed biology including weed seed dormancy/germination, interaction of cultivation and weed seed germination and perennial weed management. Expected milestones will be that 40 program participants through hands-on training and recorded PowerPoint content become advocates who will train 140 farmers on integrated approaches to weed control in organic vegetable production.
Performance targets from proposal:
1] Core group of agricultural educators representing several organizations including Cooperative Extension, NRCS, NOFA and Departments of Agriculture participate in a preliminary planning meeting assessing scope and methodology of a hands-on training program they will be attending at a future date. Project leader, team members and key individuals query participants for program development. Participants become engaged in project. Three months
2] Project leader, team members and key individuals along with the core group of participants recruit 40 agricultural educators to attend a northern or southern training program. Simultaneously training program logistics and content are being developed. Four months
3] 25 participants attend first training program. Participants are assessed through a questionnaire survey on their baseline knowledge and educational abilities related to integrated approaches to controlling weeds in organic vegetable production systems. The participants become engaged in hands-on training. The participants are assessed through the questionnaire survey on their post
program knowledge and willingness to engage farmers in educational outreach programs. 17 participants through survey results express willingness to develop farmer training programs impacting 75 farmers. Twenty-one participants through survey results altered their views on the complexity and need for an integrated approach to organic weed control programs. Four months
4] 15 participants attend second training program. Participants are assessed through a questionnaire survey on their baseline knowledge and educational abilities related to integrated approaches to controlling weeds in organic vegetable systems. Program content is altered based upon results of initial program. Participants are assessed through the questionnaire survey on their post program knowledge and willingness to engage farmers in educational outreach programs. Twenty-three Participants through survey results altered their views on the complexity
and need for an integrated approach to organic weed control programs. Four months
5] A core group of 38 participants utilizing an integrated approach to educating farmers on weed control programs for organic vegetable production. A group of 77 farmers are trained and surveyed by program participants. Nine months
6] core group of 50 participants are engaged by project leader through follow up contacts requesting additional feedback and survey documentation. 28 participants respond through survey providing additional 75 farmers trained and surveyed. Farmers survey results indicate 65 farmers have developed more effective weed control strategies resulting in improved crop production and profitability. Twelve months
Forty agricultural professional educators [Cooperative Extension, NRCS, crop consultants] will be trained with 25 attending training at Rutgers University — Snyder Research Farm — and 15 at University of Delaware Research and Education Center.
140 farmers trained by 25 agricultural educators will be surveyed obtaining farm-level impact [including economic] of educational program. This survey will be accomplished by providing a survey document to trainers to utilize at farmer training programs.
Follow-up contact with the “engaged” agricultural trainers will occur at four month intervals for 16 months tracking their educational outreach to farmers in relation to performance targets. A follow-up meeting of 10 “engaged” educators will be held in year three reviewing performance targets and enhancing program content. If performance targets are less than anticipated additional contacts will be made with educators informing them of upcoming venues available for farmer training.