- Vegetables: tomatoes
- Additional Plants: herbs, ornamentals
- Crop Production: fertigation, application rate management
- Education and Training: demonstration, display, extension, farmer to farmer, workshop
- Farm Business Management: new enterprise development
- Pest Management: biological control, biorational pesticides, botanical pesticides, chemical control, cultural control, disease vectors, integrated pest management, physical control, prevention, sanitation
- Production Systems: holistic management, transitioning to organic
- Soil Management: soil analysis
- Sustainable Communities: sustainability measures
ABSTRACT: In recent years, farmers in New England have diversified their farms by adding greenhouse crops to increase income and retain farm viability. To use sustainable greenhouse practices successfully, farmers must be able to correctly identify cultural and pest problems (early diagnosis) and have information available about sustainable solutions for those problems and how to implement them. Incorrect diagnosis leads to poor plant quality and lower profit, increased plant loss, increased pesticide use, and movement of pests to other crops such as vegetable crops on their farms. Lack of knowledge of alternative pest management options leads to over reliance on pesticides, promoting pest resistance and environmental pesticide residues. We will implement a three year sustainable greenhouse health maintenance program (GHMP) in southern New England (MA, CT, RI) that will include hands-on training, site visits, diagnostics, pest management and cultural recommendations, an early alert system, sustainable greenhouse workshops, farm tours or twilight meetings, and base-line and post-project evaluation surveys. Extension educators will conduct greenhouse site visits each week during the spring and fall growing seasons in Massachusetts and Connecticut, working with growers to identify pests, nutritional and cultural problems, and find sustainable solutions. During visits, farmers will learn how to use tools for early diagnosis, cultural practices to reduce pests and how to use low-risk pesticides and biological controls. Information from the site visits each week will be disseminated to farmers throughout southern New England (MA, CT, RI) via websites, email and fax as an early alert system. Two sustainable greenhouse education workshops, farm tours or twilight meetings will be held each year. We project that of 150 participating farmers over three years, 30 will adopt one or more new sustainable greenhouse practices that will increase plant quality and reduce use of high-risk pesticides. These 30 farmers will achieve at least one of the following, reduced plant losses from pest damage or cultural practices, reduced use of high-risk pesticides, effective use of low-risk pesticides and biological controls, and integration of proper cultural practices in their greenhouses. A post-project evaluation survey of all participants will be conducted to determine if specific practices changed. We plan to continue the program beyond year three with support from participating growers.
Performance targets from proposal:
Of the 150 farmers in southern New England (MA, CT, RI) who will participate in on-farm, and other educational opportunities offered through this program, we project that at least 30 will adopt one or more new sustainable greenhouse practices within three years of the program. These 30 farmers will achieve one or more of the following: Reduced plant losses from pest damage or cultural practices, reduced use of high-risk pesticides, effective use of low-risk pesticides and biological controls, and integration of proper cultural practices in their greenhouses. Project activities will support the NESARE outcome statement by having a positive influence on the environment and by helping farm to become successfully diversified and profitable. More farmers will adopt sustainable practices for greenhouse production as a result of this project. This will have a positive influence on the environment by reducing the use of high-risk pesticides. Since the beneficiaries will be farmers who grow other agricultural crops or may raise livestock, this project will also help the farmers to diversify their businesses by successfully growing greenhouse plants for sale, increasing farm incomes.
How will we know that we have reached this goal?
During site visits, extension educators, with the farmers input, will assess their current situation including greenhouse cultural practices, diagnostic procedures, pesticide use, crop losses, past pest problems, and crop quality satisfaction. Farmers that do not receive a site visit, but attend educational programs organized by the project or participate in the alert program (email or fax) will complete a self assessment baseline survey. Participating farmers will complete a follow-up survey in fall/winter 2007 to self-assess changes in greenhouse practices and crop quality, as described above.