Utilizing Insect and Irrigation Monitoring to Enhance Sustainable Vegetable Production: Extension Educator Training for Arkansas

Project Overview

ES20-155
Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2020: $69,328.00
Projected End Date: 07/01/2022
Grant Recipient: University of Arkansas
Region: Southern
State: Arkansas
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Aaron Cato
University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture

Commodities

  • Vegetables: cucurbits, tomatoes

Practices

  • Crop Production: irrigation
  • Education and Training: extension, mentoring
  • Pest Management: field monitoring/scouting, integrated pest management

    Proposal abstract:

    To increase the adoption of sustainable pest management and production practices in fresh-market vegetable production, Extension personnel must be properly educated and have access to training materials. The goal of this project is to develop sustainable pest-management and irrigation curricula for University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service (UACES) county agents to utilize. Principle investigators (PIs) will use a “train the trainer” model to educate UACES agents and mentor growers on sustainable practices, like insect pest monitoring systems and efficient irrigation management. Hands-on training along with developed curricula will support UACES agents to assist both conventional and organic growers to implement successful integrated pest management (IPM) and irrigation programs in fresh-market vegetable production in Arkansas. Developed training materials will consist of PowerPoint presentations, demonstration videos, factsheets, and a vegetable production and IPM webpage. These materials will be tested in four trainings for UACES agents in the three major regions of Arkansas. These curricula and trainings will allow agents to educate fresh-market growers and increase confidence in recommending a systems approach to vegetable pest management. Evaluation of this project will focus on the ability of agents to answer questions related to curricula at trainings, agent’s ability to recommend sustainable pest and irrigation management practices at farm visits, and input from both agents and fresh-market growers with a final survey. This project expects to increase UACES agent’s ability to make recommendations related to sustainable vegetable pest and irrigation management, and subsequently increase adoption of these techniques across Arkansas and the Southeast.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. Develop materials to train UACES agents and 3-4 Arkansas mentor growers to use and recommend pheromone-based insect and irrigation monitoring methodologies to improve the sustainability of production and pest management programs in small-scale organic and conventional vegetable operations across the state and the Southeast.
    2. At the end of the two year project a minimum of 45 UACES agents trained in workshops will be able to answer basic questions on sustainable vegetable production, with 80% proficiency, including: trap selection and placement in vegetable production, which pests in tomatoes and cucurbits need to be monitored to reduce pesticide use, how to install and manage basic irrigation management tools and how efficient water management affects crop production and IPM.
    3. Agent knowledge of sustainable vegetable production will be improved 50% and result in agent participants planning to increase the number of times insect monitoring for pest management and irrigation monitoring sensors are recommended to fresh-market vegetable growers.
    4. The 3-4 mentor growers who are trained to successfully implement pheromone-based insect and irrigation monitoring programs will be highlighted for their successes through 3 recorded video interviews in order to reach a minimum of 1,000 extension agents and growers across the South.
    5. Information about insect and irrigation monitoring practices will be made more available to Southeast extension agents and growers via online sources. A webpage will be created that will act as a centralized source of training materials, five demonstration videos, and monitoring maps and data, which will facilitate agent access to sustainable vegetable recommendations. These training materials will also be shared with other regional extension services and SSARE to facilitate adoption across the Southeast and reach a minimum of 1,000 people in the region by the end of the second year.
    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.