- Agronomic: canola, rapeseed, sunflower, grass (misc. perennial), hay
- Fruits: melons, berries (cranberries), cherries, peaches, pears, plums, berries (strawberries)
- Vegetables: cucurbits, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes
- Additional Plants: native plants
- Animal Production: feed/forage
- Crop Production: conservation tillage
- Education and Training: demonstration, extension, technical assistance
- Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, hedges - grass, grass waterways, habitat enhancement, riparian buffers, wildlife, hedges - woody
- Pest Management: cultural control, economic threshold, field monitoring/scouting, integrated pest management, row covers (for pests), trap crops
- Production Systems: agroecosystems, holistic management
- Sustainable Communities: sustainability measures
With funding from WSARE we will provide at least four workshops per year, for two years, in Oregon for field staff from the Natural Resource Conservation Service, Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Farm Services Administration, and Oregon State University Extension Service to address how conservation buffers and other on-farm habitats can be enhanced to increase populations of beneficial insects. The workshops will address how conservation buffers and other on-farm habitat can be enhanced to increase populations of native bees and populations of the predators and parasites of crop pests. The workshops will be followed-up with one-on-one technical assistance provided to agricultural professionals to address project-specific needs. Technical assistance will include development of locally appropriate plant lists and field visits to determine habitat opportunities for beneficial insects on specific farms with which agricultural professionals are collaborating.
Recent research demonstrates that native bees can be significant pollinators of some crops, and that predatory and parasitic insects are critically important for keeping pest insects in check. These beneficial insects improve the efficiency and sustainability of working farms’ crop production and can provide incentives for growers to engage in habitat or biodiversity conservation on their land. In addition, the conservation methods and ecological principles we will teach receive greater financial support via USDA Farm Bill conservation programs with each passing year, especially in light of the recent National Academies of Science report on the Status of Pollinators in North America. The habitat features we will teach in these workshops also add to the menu of marketing tools for small, diverse farms. Growers will be able to promote how they have reduced their reliance on pesticides and increased wildlife habitat, all while providing resources for a diversity of beneficial predators, parasites, and pollinators.
The workshops and technical support provide a mechanism for extending the expertise of Xerces Society and Integrated Plant Protection Center (IPPC) staff to this professional audience, by demonstration and review of practices on working farms, and diagnosis of the most appropriate procedures to adopt on a given farm. Lack of knowledge and understanding of the basic ecology and habitat requirements of beneficial insects represent key constraints to the wider adoption of these practices. They represent however the most significant steps a farmer can take to enhance the critical ecosystem services of predation, parasitism and pollination on their farms. The workshop participants represent the key audience of agricultural professionals in Oregon that can assist and support growers in their quest to develop whole farm approaches to sustainable crop production practices. The workshops build upon several years of successful collaboration between the Xerces Society and the IPPC, and provide a unique opportunity to stimulate more effective advice and support for farmers.
Project objectives from proposal:
The primary audience for these workshops will be field staff of the NRCS, the Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Farm Services Administration, and OSU Extension Service. We also will advertise and open these events (space allowing) to local growers and non-profits.
We will target areas of Oregon that grow significant amounts of insect-pollinated crops, beginning with four NRCS Basins – Central Coast/Upper Willamette Valley, Lower Willamette Valley, Deschutz, and the North Coast – where apples, cherries, cane fruit, blueberries, cranberries, squash and melons, vegetable seed, and other insect-pollinated products are grown.
Activities and methods.
Over the next two years, the IPPC and the Xerces Society will conduct eight half-day workshops on fine-tuning conservation practices for pollinators and other beneficial insects. Generally, participants will learn how to help growers adjust the mix of plants and habitat features on their land to have the greatest benefit for these beneficial insects: pollinators, predators, and parasites. Workshops will be followed up with direct technical assistance to NRCS, SWCD and other agency field staff to implement these strategies appropriately in different regions of the state.
Workshop Phase 1 (Year 1) – Overall habitat needs and diagnostics:
Specifically, in Phase 1 of this project, we will conduct four workshops in which we provide participants with an overview of the habitat requirements of these beneficial insects, as well as basic diagnostic tools for identifying these beneficials. Each workshop will be a half-day and will include four 1- to 1.5-hour presentations and a brief field trip to a nearby farm to apply lessons learned in the presentations to a real habitat. At these workshops, copies of Farming for Bees brochure (enclosed), Guidelines for Providing Native Bee Habitat on Farms (http://www.xerces.org/Pollinator_Insect_Conservation/Farm_Pollinator_Guidelines.pdf), and field guides for identifying beneficial insects will be distributed (e.g. http://www.ipmnet.org/Posters_and_Presentations/Pocket_Guide_Natural_Enemies.pdf). The presentation content will be as follows.
Predators and parasites of pest insects (OSU IPPC). Participants will learn which insects are beneficial, and how to attract and retain them. We will provide tools that can be used to develop on-farm plans for predator and parasite conservation and enhancement, including our successful Bugscaping Game (http://www.ipmnet.org/Farm_The_Bug-Scaping_Game.html), where growers work in groups to develop a workable farm plan that incorporates conservation biological control practices within a specific farm setting.
Pollinators (Xerces Society). Participants will learn about the latest research on crop pollination by native bees, the habitat requirements of these species, and the most important steps that can be taken to help ensure that native pollinators continue to provide their valuable service, or even increase their abundance in agricultural landscapes. Special attention will be given to how current conservation practices in agricultural landscapes can be fine-tuned to the greatest benefit of crop pollinators.
Farm Bill programs. We will invite representatives of the NRCS to provide details about how Farm Bill conservation programs – including the Conservation Security Program, Conservation Reserve Program and the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program – can be used to provide habitat for beneficial insects. A potential (unconfirmed) speaker includes Wendell Gilgert, Wildlife Biologist for NRCS Western Region.
Workshops Phase 2 (Year 2) – Management for beneficial insects in the field:
In year 2 (the second phase) of this project, we will organize four all-day workshops where we go into greater detail specific to each workshop’s location. We will have short presentations inside where we review basic habitat needs and highlight specific plants appropriate for a particular site. We then will spend the bulk of the day in the field visiting sites where habitat restoration that benefits beneficial insects and other wildlife have been implemented. OSU IPPC has established on-farm beetle bank establishment experiments (e.g. http://www.ipmnet.org/Farm_Implementing_on-farm_conservation_practices.html), and a number of growers in Oregon already use insectary planting regimes that can be visited, and sampled directly (e.g. http://www.ipmnet.org/Farmwalks.html).
On-going technical support:
After all workshops, we will provide direct technical assistance to field staff of the NRCS, SWCD, and other farm agencies. This assistance will include developing locally appropriate plant lists, tailored to provide the greatest benefit to beneficial insects. We also will conduct site visits at specific farms to determine the opportunities for providing other habitat features (e.g. nest sites, pesticide refugia, overwintering habitat, etc.) for beneficial insects.
Involvement of growers:
Growers will be involved in two phases of the project. First we will consult growers who already manage conservation habitats on their farms to gain insight into key factors of habitat creation to include in the workshops. Second, growers will be invited to be presenters and to serve as hosts for the on-farm portion of the workshops, particularly for Phase 2, where growers will be an integral part of the development of content and the outreach to agricultural professionals.
Outreach plan to reach agricultural professionals:
We will collaborate with Russ Hatz, Leader for Technology, at the Oregon NRCS state office. Together with NRCS Basin Team Leaders and District Conservationists, we will promote these trainings throughout the four targeted basins. In Phase 1, workshops will be a half-day long in order to cover a broad diversity of topics related to native pollinators and beneficial insects, and to make is easier for field staff to attend (i.e., they will have time to travel to and from the event in a single day). We will also work to coordinate these workshops with Basin Team meetings, because field staff will already be gathered. To expand our reach, we will advertise each workshop to the local staff of OSU Extension Service and the Soil and Water Conservation Districts and will welcome the participation of local growers.
We have already produced most of the educational materials. Early in the project, we will complete production of a brochure on providing habitat for pest management. This will be a companion to our pollinator conservation brochure.
We will use this project to get this new brochure, as well as our existing educational materials, into the hands of NRCS staff. And we will develop direct partnerships between NRCS field staff and experts on beneficial insects. We will provide training to agricultural professionals so that they can promote beneficial insect conservation directly to farmers and other producers.
Outcomes and Evaluation
Short-term: Increased awareness and knowledge of agricultural professional field staff. We will evaluate our success by administering brief pre- and post-tests that help us better understand what knowledge agricultural professionals bring to each workshop and what they take away. The cost of developing this evaluation tool is measured in staff time to prepare, administer, and grade/review.
Medium-term: We will improve the skills and capacity of agricultural professionals so that they can promote beneficial insect conservation directly to farmers and other producers. Our goal is for agricultural professionals to take what we teach and share this information with other growers and colleagues. Currently, we are seeing the results of our previous outreach efforts in the efforts of the NRCS West National Technology Support Center to promote beneficial insect conservation across the western states and territories.
We will determine the medium-term success of this particular project by polling a subset (30%) of our participants one year later to see how they are using the information. The cost for this will come about in staff time developing a brief questionnaire, calling or mailing these questions to former participants, and then taking the time to review and analyze the feedback we receive. We also will follow up to see how beneficial insects are being incorporated into other workshops and presentations given by NRCS and SWCD staff, as well as into funding criteria for Farm Bill conservation programs.
Long-term: In the long term we want to see changes on the ground in terms of increased participation among growers in Farm Bill or other conservation buffer programs supporting beneficial insect (and wildlife) habitat. We will determine how successful we have been along these lines by polling a subset (30%) of our participants one year later to see how the growers they work with have incorporated what we teach into on-the-ground practices. The poll will also address what other tools agricultural professionals needed to implement these conservation and sustainable agriculture strategies. The cost for this will come about in staff time developing a brief questionnaire, calling or mailing these questions to former participants, and then taking the time to review and analyze the feedback we receive.