- Education and Training: technical assistance, extension, workshop
- Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, habitat enhancement, hedgerows, wildlife
- Pest Management: biological control, integrated pest management
- Production Systems: holistic management, organic agriculture
Native insects that attack crop pests are an overlooked resource. Although vast numbers of such beneficial insects are at work on farms across the world, they are eclipsed in farm education by a smaller diversity of pest species. Yet, as a large body of research now demonstrates, farmers as diverse as pumpkin growers in New Mexico and wine grape producers in eastern Washington benefit from natural pest control. The Conservation Biological Control Short Course synthesizes that body of research and offers realistic solutions for enhancing beneficial insect populations on farms. Specific course topics include beneficial insect biology, designing habitat for beneficials, pesticide risk mitigation, securing financial support through USDA programs, and real world case studies. This project, the outgrowth of a 6-year research initiative conducted by the Xerces Society and university research partners, for the first time ever presents conservation biological control as an easy-to-adopt framework for multiple crop systems. The audience for this project includes IPM specialists, Extension personnel, NRCS conservation planners, Soil and Water Conservation District technicians, state departments of agriculture, crop consultants, and sustainable agriculture organizations. The project will be promoted through multiple channels, as well as in partnership with relevant agencies and State SARE Coordinators. Qualitative and quantitative post-course feedback from participants will be incorporated on an ongoing basis. Based upon the overwhelmingly successful results of a prior PDP project using this same model (related to pollinator conservation), we are confident this project will foster widespread adoption of course concepts across the region.
Project objectives from proposal:
The trainings conducted through this project will be offered over 36 months, with 6 trainings conducted in year one, 6 trainings conducted in year two, and follow-up evaluations and ongoing support to participants conducted into the third year. Through these events, more than 350 educators and farm agency professionals will receive in-depth training on the latest science-based conservation biological control strategies. The states where the Course will be offered include Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming, and Hawaii. (Note: in the case of Hawaii, we are exploring options with the regional NRCS office and American Samoa Community College to make the training available to the entire Pacific Island region through both in-person and webinar-based trainings.)
The project will be promoted through direct announcements distributed through participating agencies and organizations, including announcements publicized by NRCS, through Extension newsletters, listservs, farm media, and collaboration with state SARE coordinators.
Year One: We will find venues for 6 events, set-up structures to promote the trainings, register participants, and conduct 6 trainings.
Year Two: We will find venues for 6 events, register participants, and conduct 6 trainings. Send follow-up evaluations to participants from year one events and provide ongoing support to participants.
Year Three: We will send follow-up evaluations to participants from year two events and provide ongoing support to participants; we will collate and summarize all evaluations and provide report.
In scheduling events, we try to identify program venues as far in advance as possible to help partner agencies incorporate the course into their staff development planning. Our scheduling process also works to maximize participant attendance by offering courses when they don’t conflict with peak field season or other sustainable agriculture events.
Under this schedule, initial trainings will help us continually refine curriculum to the greatest benefit of all participants with each subsequent event. A final year of follow-up gives us adequate time to support any queries from participants and to conduct meaningful long-term evaluations for what is anticipated to be several hundred people.
Beyond this timeline, we will work to provide ongoing support for course participants long after completion of the formal project. For example, using leveraged funds, we have been able to offer ongoing consulting and outreach support for participants who attended our previous pollinator short courses.