We can do something about fire ants – Training Professionals and Developing Teaching Materials in Sustainable Fire Ant Management

Project Overview

ES00-050
Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2000: $40,155.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2004
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $31,775.00
Region: Southern
State: Alabama
Principal Investigator:
Kathy Flanders
Auburn University

Annual Reports

Commodities

  • Agronomic: potatoes, grass (misc. perennial), hay
  • Additional Plants: native plants, ornamentals

Practices

  • Animal Production: animal protection and health, range improvement, feed/forage
  • Crop Production: application rate management
  • Education and Training: demonstration, display, extension, focus group, mentoring, networking, participatory research
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity
  • Pest Management: biological control, biorational pesticides, economic threshold, integrated pest management
  • Production Systems: holistic management
  • Sustainable Communities: partnerships, public participation, sustainability measures

    Abstract:

    This project was designed to teach the principles of sustainable, site specific management of imported fire ants. Site-specific management makes the most efficient use of on-farm and public resources. Fire ants affect nearly everyone in Alabama. They can adversely affect our health, our agriculture, our wildlife, and our environment. It has been estimated that fire ants cost Alabamians $175,000,000 per year. Fire ant management is frequently crisis oriented, relying on the use of harsh chemical insecticides. As a rule, people spend too much money, too much time, and use too many pesticides trying to control fire ants. Environmentally safe fire ant products are currently available for use. However, they are often applied improperly. A sustainable approach to fire ant management can make fire ants easier to live with, while reducing social, economic, and environmental costs. The goal of this project is to increase the general level of knowledge about fire ant management by 20-25%. A tiered training approach has been used. In 2000, forty county agents were trained in fire ant management. In 2001, educational publications and teaching materials were developed with input from these county agents (www.aces.edu/dept/fireants). For 2002, we trained the next tier of trainers, who we are calling fire ant management advisors. By teaching those who are likely to pass on their knowledge, we multiply our training efforts and dollars. In 2003, we continued our education efforts in fire ant management. We particularly wanted to get information to the employees at garden centers, and to extend our efforts to Alabama cattlemen. In 2004, participants continued to conduct fire ant education programs. In addition, they shifted their emphasis toward hands-on, field demonstrations of bait-baised fire ant management programs.

    The tiered-training system, where project participants train level one trainers, who will then train more trainers (level 2) has been very successful. Our level one trainers take on more responsibility each year, and are finding new ways to use the materials developed in the course of this project. For example, in 2005, several of trainers are organizing a regional fire ant management workshop. 32 Alabama Cooperative Extension System agents are planning fire ant education programs for 2005.

    The materials have been so successful that we are continuing to use them, well past the original planned dates of the grant (2001-2003). We are in the process of updating the fire ant video and the PowerPoint demonstrations.We documented that our projects increased the general level of knowledge of fire ant management by 29%, exceeding our goal of 20-25%. We estimate that stakeholders save about $1 million each year, by adopting sustainable fire ant management practices. The quality of life for farmers and for society as a whole has been enhanced by reducing the impact of fire ants on humans, livestock, and wildlife.

    Project objectives:

    The purpose of this project was to provide training on sustainable management solutions for fire ants. We had the following, behavior-based objectives:

    1) Conduct a hands-on in-service training session for 40 county agents and farmers on fire ant biology and sustainable management. Based on prior in-service sessions, we expected that pre-training and post-training tests would show that that we increased by 20-25% the knowledge level of this first tier of trainers.

    2) The major participants and first tier of trainees were to work together to prepare fire ant teaching materials. We expected to develop a video, a slide set, an interactive CD-ROM, educational posters, preserved specimens of fire ants, and a model of a fire ant mound.

    3) The major participants and tier 1 trainees were expected to use the newly developed teaching materials to instruct a second tier of trainers and stakeholders, including additional county agents, farmers’ cooperative personnel, Master Gardeners, turfgrass managers, building industry personnel, and Christmas tree growers. We expected to hold approximately 30 training sessions.

    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.