Western Integrated Nutrient Management Education Program
Successful nutrient management requires better communication among the parties responsible for planning and implementing changes in management practices. Key participants in the Western Integrated Nutrient Management Education Project include Cooperative Extension and Natural Resources Conservation Service representatives in the Pacific Northwest. In 2002, seven workshops were held in Idaho, Washington, and Oregon with total attendance of 208. Follow-up survey data indicate that participants are using the knowledge they gained in their work and that they are better able to communicate with regulators on nutrient management. Evaluation results document that the workshop participants cumulatively impact 500,000 acres in the Pacific Northwest.
The goal of the Western Integrated Nutrient Management Education (WINME) Project is to increase the ability of agricultural professionals to support landowners in sustainable nutrient management decisions that minimize negative impact of nutrients on the environment and human health. To promote this goal the project has the following objectives:
Train agricultural professionals in technical and participatory planning aspects of nutrient management to enhance their capacity to provide sustainable field, farm, and watershed level assistance
Create educational materials and resources that provide up-to-date, cutting-edge research information in a practical format
Facilitate communication between agricultural support professionals, farmers, and regulatory agencies to create fundamental improvements in the regulatory climate
Evaluate the education program and provide guidance for training in other states of the Western Region
Project organization and planning activities
The Western Integrated Nutrient Management Education (WINME) project team held three face-to-face planning meetings and six teleconferences between December 2001 and November 2002. These meetings and teleconferences serve to keep the project team connected by sharing ideas and information related to nutrient management educational resource creation and implementation. The responsibilities of the nine project team members includes:
Dan Sullivan: Principal investigator: provides overall project leadership and serves as trainer. Supervises project coordinator.
Brad Brown: Coordinates educational efforts in Idaho, serves as trainer and assists in recruiting extension participants.
Robert Stevens: Coordinates educational efforts in central and eastern Washington, serves as trainer and assists in developing the technical resource and workshop materials.
Mary Staben: Coordinates workshop activities, develops workshop materials, and assists in developing technical resource materials. Designs and facilitates participant evaluation of project impacts and outcomes. Maintains project website.
John Hart: Leads the development of technical resource materials, assists in coordination of program activities.
Don Horneck: Serves as trainer and assists in developing resource materials
Joe Harrison: Coordinates educational efforts in western Washington. Serves as trainer for whole farm nutrient management practices.
Craig Cogger: Assists in publication development and educational efforts in western Washington.
Jason Ellsworth: Serves as trainer and assists in developing resource materials.
A meeting was held in December 2001 to outline the direction for each of the Extension publications. Dan Sullivan, John Hart, Bob Stevens, Don Horneck and Mary Staben were present. We spent the bulk of the day determining the content areas and examples for the publication titled “Monitoring soil nutrients to meet agronomic and environmental goals.”
In April 2002, the project team met in Hermiston, Oregon to design a training module. The meeting was attended by the principal investigators from Idaho, Oregon and Washington and a NRCS representative, this included Dan Sullivan, John Hart, Robert Stevens, Brad Brown, Jason Ellsworth, Don Horneck, Mary Staben and Steve Campbell. We developed the outline for a training module on nitrogen cycling, transformation and timing. Steve Campbell, NRCS Soil Quality Specialist, provided an important perspective on how NRCS would use a portable training module.
We held our 2002 annual planning meeting was in Boardman, Oregon on October 9 and 10. The meeting was attended by Dan Sullivan, Mary Staben, Robert Stevens, Don Horneck and Brad Brown. This two-day meeting covered:
Progress on continuing education proficiency tests and credits available from the internet for CCA’s
Creating the outline for a training module on managing organic nutrient sources
Discussing how to bring about an interest Oregon, Washington and Idaho in having a consistent lab certification standard for the PNW
Planning upcoming 2003 project workshops and activities
Progress on core elements of project
Key outputs of the project are:
Small (30 participants or less) interactive workshops for nutrient management planners, regulators and farmers
Project website with a variety of nutrient management resources
Extension publications on key regional nutrient management issues
Nutrient Management Workshops
During the past year we held 2 workshops in Idaho, 3 workshops in Washington and 3 workshops in Oregon with total attendance of 208 (Table 1 -sent with written report). The workshops used interactive education methods that focus on problem solving in small groups and tailored nutrient management case studies for local audiences.
The project has been unique in tackling complex issues that require dialogue among farmers, NRCS, conservation districts, Extension faculty and private vendors. For example, the project sponsored a February 2002 workshop in western Washington that evaluated the value and limitations of soil nitrate monitoring required under NRCS Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP). As a result of the workshop, a new draft Pacific Northwest Extension publication has been made available via the WINME Project website and has been reviewed by over 15 public and private agricultural professionals (see Publication section).
Resource Notebooks and Publications
Resource notebooks are developed by workshop organizers to meet the specific needs at each training. Examples of workshop notebooks include:
Managing Organic Nutrients as a Part of a Nutrient Management Plan Workshop. This notebook contained the PowerPoint slides from each talk, university nutrient management guides related to the participatory exercises and an NRCS publication Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plans.
Fall Soil Nitrate Workshop notebook included the proceedings of the workshop and supporting technical publications related to managing nutrients and manure.
Nutrient and Pest Management Considerations in Conservation Planning (Module 7) notebook contained the NRCS standards for nutrient management planning and resources on each topic area and the supporting materials for the participatory exercises. The presenters have adapted the national format to include examples and resources that relate to the types of farming systems the participants work with in eastern and western Oregon. Subject matter areas included water quality concerns for nutrient management, nitrogen cycling, manure management, phosphorus index, and developing crop nutrient recommendations.
After the Fall Soil Nitrate Workshop at the end of February 2002, some members of the project team met in May with NRCS state-level personnel from Washington and Oregon to create the outline for a new publication on monitoring fall soil nitrate. Many workshop participants, including NRCS, regulatory agency personnel, agricultural professionals and producers, expressed their desire for a new publication to be created to address the shortcomings of the Washington State NRCS Tech Note 35, Guide to “Report Card” Soil Testing that was currently in use. During this meeting the needs and concerns of NRCS and Extension were shared and addressed. A draft version of the new publication, Post-harvest soil nitrate testing for N management in manured cropping systems in western Oregon and Washington, was posted on the project website and agricultural professionals were invited to serve as reviewers for this publication to widen the involvement and ownership in the process. This collaborative effort was a new approach to creating resources that meet the needs of the users.
Publication development has been a focus of all project meetings and teleconferences. The project team has three Pacific Northwest Extension publications in various stages. Below are the target dates for submission to OSU Extension Communications for each publication along with the author(s) (* = publication coordinator).
Post-harvest soil nitrate testing for N management in manured cropping systems in western Oregon and Washington. January 2003. Dan Sullivan* and Craig Cogger.
Monitoring soil nutrients to meet agronomic and environmental goals. February 2003. Mary Staben*, Jason Ellsworth, Don Horneck and Dan Sullivan.
The Phosphorus Index: a field-scale screening tool for resource conservation. February 2003. Dan Sullivan* and Robert Stevens.
The WINME Project website can be viewed at http://www.css.orst.edu/nm. This site is designed for nutrient management planners and other agricultural professionals in the Pacific Northwest. The educational events and resources provided emphasize nutrient management issues and tools for Idaho, Washington and Oregon. The website is continuously expanded and updated as new resources and information become available. One major expansion is the addition of web pages for the Western Coordinating Committee for Nutrient Management and Water Quality (WCC-103). The four major content areas of the project website include:
Current Events lists nutrient management related workshops and educational events in the Pacific Northwest
Resources contains links to nutrient management related publications, software and tools, Pacific Northwest soil maps and data, related websites and groups involved in nutrient management
Policy provides access to current information on CAFO/AFO rules, phosphorus and water quality policy
Program Evaluation has links to university resources to assist in the design of educational programs and evaluation
We evaluated the impact of the workshop component of the WINME Project in assisting participants in:
Figure 1 (sent with written report) shows a systems perspective of the project that highlights the communication channels that have evolved as a result of the project. Both at-event and follow-up evaluation were completed for the six workshops in 2002.
At-Event Workshop Evaluation
A retrospective pretest was used for the at-event evaluation for the six workshops in 2002. The surveys were completed by participants at the end of the workshop; the participants comparatively assess their knowledge or views after the workshop with their knowledge or views prior to the workshop (see Workshop Evaluation Surveys). There were five content-based questions for each workshop with numeric ratings of 0 (low) to 10 (high) for before and after knowledge levels; the specific content areas varied according to workshop objectives. Ten questions relating to the participatory activities and take-home materials, termed “process” questions, were asked at all workshops. Five of the process questions were based on a 0-to-10 scale and two of the process questions included before and after ratings as mentioned above. Participants were also asked to respond to five questions that required written responses. These questions mainly focused on how the workshop content or activities could be improved. The retrospective pretest data on content and process were analyzed using a paired t-test at a 95% confidence interval. A total of 126 surveys were completed at the six workshops. The written responses were qualitatively analyzed by group responses into themes by the project coordinator.
Summary and Conclusions from At-Event Workshop Evaluation
The increase in knowledge in the various content areas strongly suggests that the presentations and activities at the workshops were successful at conveying information to the participants (Table 2 and Appendix 1). For most of the content-based questions, the changes in before and after knowledge were significantly different. For the participatory activities, the amount of change the participants reported is much smaller than the changes for the content-based questions. This might have been expected since the participatory workshops were not specifically designed to stretch the participants’ experience in group activities, whereas the content portion of these workshops were designed to present new data and concepts.
The main purpose of the Salem and Pendleton trainings was to educate NRCS employees on how to perform the NRCS nutrient management planning process, which includes completing many NRCS worksheets. This aspect of the workshop might have influenced what the participants expected to gain from their experience (how to accurately complete worksheets). The written responses about the participatory activities were positive regarding working in small groups but results regarding if “the activity was fun” or if “the take home materials appear to be supportive of the work you do” were not significant. From the written responses to the question “What made the participatory activity useful to you?” it was clear that is was very important to the participants that they were trained to complete the required NRCS worksheets for nutrient management planning.
One point that made the Prosser workshop stand out was the high score for how fun the small group activities were for the participants. When this is compared to the written responses about “What made the participatory activities useful?” the theme that emerged was that time was allowed for group discussion after the small group activity. This may indicate the high value participants place on this concluding part of the participatory process.
Follow-up Workshop Evaluation
Approximately six months after the workshops were completed we conducted follow-up evaluation. The purpose of this evaluation was to determine how durable the workshops were in terms of impacting how participants perform their nutrient management related work. The follow-up evaluation included phone interviews by the project coordinator of twenty-four randomly selected participants and a mail survey (see Follow-up Interview and Mail Surveys). The remaining 142 participants with complete mailing addresses were sent a survey along with a letter and a stamped return envelope. Eighty-eight completed mail surveys were returned, resulting in a 62% response rate. The questions asked in the interviews followed the same design for content and structure as the mail survey. The main difference in the two methods was that the mail surveys offered a set of responses to choose from (there was always an option to write in a different response), whereas the interview participants needed to provide open-ended responses without being given suggestions. The reason for conducting both the interviews and mail survey was to gather more detailed information from the interviews to augment the mail survey data.
The third follow-up evaluation activity was interviewing project team members. Six core project team members and the State Conservation Agronomists for NRCS in Washington, Idaho and Oregon were interviewed via phone by the project coordinator. The purpose was to learn what aspects of the project were working and benefiting the team members and, ultimately, the target audience. Nine of the ten questions required open-ended responses; therefore theme analysis was performed by the project coordinator to group like responses into categories (see Project Team Interview Survey).
Participant Survey and Interview Results
The majority of the follow-up evaluation participants write nutrient management plans as a part of their work (Tables 3 and 4). Ninety-five percent of those surveyed work with landowners on the topic of nutrient management. Over half of the participants conduct nutrient management planning on over 1,500 acres each. The more detailed data from the phone interviews indicated that the average acreage that participants work with each year is over 20,000 per person, and therefore this group impacts almost 500,000 acres in the Pacific Northwest.
When participants were asked how they have used the knowledge gained at the workshops, the most common responses were advising producers, providing information to co-workers and writing nutrient management plans. Over three-quarters of those interviewed and the mail surveys respondents felt that as a result of attending the workshop that they were now “well prepared” or “somewhat well prepared” to communicate with regulators. Another encouraging result was that since the workshops the participants are communicating more on the topic of nutrient management and the largest increase was in communication with producers.
The most common response to the question “What aspects of the workshop made it valuable to you?” included increased nutrient management knowledge and skills, new information and research, and networking with other professionals. When the participants were asked what made the workshop valuable the interviews provided additional information. Seven of the 24 interviewees felt the hands-on exercises and examples made the workshops valuable. All participants were asked for their overall satisfaction (1 = not satisfied; 10 = very satisfied) with the workshop now that they had over six months to use the information provided in their work. The average response for both the mail survey and interview groups was 7.2 out of 10. The two methods, participant interviews and mail surveys, validated each other since the data were congruent when combined. The data were often similar from both the interviews and mail survey, thus establishing the reliability of the questions used.
The phone interviews and mail surveys reflected positive participant response to the content and interactive format of the WINME workshops. The following statements are examples from the participants who were interviewed:
The most valuable aspects of the workshop were the hands-on activities using NRCS forms and the examples with calculations.
I have used the information provided to better analyze and review soil sample data and make better interpretations.
One of the most valuable aspects of the workshop was the specific data that was provided by universities and agencies, even though it was not all the same or in agreement.
The most valuable aspect of the workshop was that agencies got together and got on the same page. There will be no more guessing on the interpretation of nitrate management.
The information presented at the workshop has helped me to be able to give a better detailed inventory of data collected in the field. It has allowed me to gather the right data and look inclusively at all of the components of nutrient management plans for nitrogen and phosphorus.
The workshop was a useful format to get regulators and the regulated talking. It was healthy and a step in the right direction.
Project Team Survey Results
When asked what had been accomplished by the project the most common theme was the benefits of NRCS and Extension working together more closely. Two other themes included the benefit of increased collaboration at the regional level and communication and that a better products were created as a result of the project. Six of the nine team members interviewed had been contacted by workshop attendees who wanted more information on nutrient management. These six individuals were contacted by at least 55 people, meaning that 1 in 4 attendees contacted one or more of the project team members. Overall, the average response to the question “Has the project had a positive impact on the nutrient management planning abilities of the target audience?” on a scale from 0 (not confident) and 10 (very confident) was 8.25. One of the State Conservation Agronomists with NRCS reported that each attendee of his workshop was required to submit a nutrient management plan after the training and that he reviewed each of the plans. He felt that 50-60% of the attendees showed a significant increase in their skills and abilities to help a producer develop a nutrient management plan.
When project team members were asked what unanticipated outcomes have resulted from the project, the two main themes were improved working relationships with NRCS and the benefits of having a project coordinator. When asked if their educational approach has changed as a result of involvement in the project, four of the six project team members felt that they had changed because the project emphasized the use of hands-on and problem-solving activities at workshops. For some workshop organizers this was the first time they had used a participatory educational approach at a workshop. The at-event evaluation showed that these interactive sessions were very valuable to the participants. Since participatory activities take significantly more time than a lecture format, the positive feedback was encouraging for the workshop organizers.
For the project team members there has been a shift in how educational events are designed and implemented. The standard approach in this project includes the use of interactive and problem-solving activities. This approach will be refined and feedback from the participants will be incorporated to improve the 2003 workshop series. The project team members are supportive of each other’s activities. One helpful development has been the use of the project website to post PowerPoint files of previous workshop presentations. Team members can then use the existing files to create new presentations and therefore promoting consistent education across the region.
REMAINING PROJECT ACTIVITIES
Currently project team members are planning and organizing the 2003 project workshops to be held in Oregon, Washington and Idaho. At-event evaluation will be conducted are each workshop.
Three tri-state Extension publications will be completed and printed in the next few months. The publications include:
Post-harvest soil nitrate testing for N management in manured cropping systems in western Oregon and Washington
Monitoring soil nutrients to meet agronomic and environmental goals and The Phosphorus Index: a field-scale screening tool for resource conservation.
In order to promote to the expanding project website we will distribute a bookmark to workshop attendees that gives the URL and briefly describes the purpose and content of the site. We also will begin distribution of a brief electronic newsletters to past workshop attendees and Extension agents and specialists notifying them of upcoming events and new additions to the site.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
IMPACTS AND CONTRIBUTIONS
After conducting a two-stage evaluation process it became clear that many new connections had been made or existing connections had been strengthened as a result of the project (Figure 1). Figure 1 shows a systems perspective of how the WINME Project has had an affect on the various parties involved in nutrient management education in the Pacific Northwest. The positive impacts of the project are well documented at the individual, state and regional levels.
The evaluation results demonstrate that the workshops were an effective format for developing knowledge and skills related to nutrient management planning. The follow-up survey data indicate that participants are using the knowledge they gained in their work and that they are better able to communicate with regulators on the topic of nutrient management. The project outcomes will enable agricultural professionals in the Pacific Northwest to better assist producers in implementing more effective nutrient management practices.
The project team surveys show that the project has produced benefits to team members and state-level NRCS personnel responsible for nutrient management education. In addition, workshop organizers are more aware of the need for participatory and interactive learning activities, and these types of activities will be incorporated into the 2003 project workshops. The results of the changes at the project team level are that there are more and higher quality educational events and resources available to agricultural professionals across the region.
Attachments for the WINME Project annual report:
Educational workshops for the target audience in 2001-2002 (Table 1)
Systems perspective of the Western Integrated Nutrient Management Education Project(Figure 1)
Workshop Evaluation Surveys (4)
Follow-up Mail Survey
Follow-up Interview Survey
Project Team Interview Survey
At-Event Evaluation Results (Table 2)
Follow-up Evaluation Results (Tables 3-4)
Appendix 1 (At-Event Workshop Evaluation Results
Nutrient Management Specialist
Washington State University
7612 Pioneer Way
Puyallup, WA 98371
Office Phone: 2534454638
Project PI, Soil Scientist
Principal Investigator, Oregon State University
Dept. of Crop and Soil Science
Corvallis, OR 97331
Office Phone: 5417375715
Irrigated Field Crop Specialist
Oregon State University
Hermiston Ag Res & Extn Center
PO Box 105
Hermiston, OR 97838-0105
Office Phone: 5415678321
Soil Science Extension Specialist
Washington State University
24106 N Bunn Road
Prosser, WA 99350-9687
Office Phone: 5097869231
Soil Fertility Specialist
University of Idaho
PO Box 1827
Twin Falls, ID 83303-1827
Office Phone: 2087363611
Extn Crop Management Specialist
University of Idaho
Parma Research & Extension Center
29603 U of I Lane
Parma, ID 83660-9637
Office Phone: 2087226701