Implementing a sustainable greenhouse health maintenance program
We implemented one-to-one site visits in spring 06. We solicited participation by publicizing the program in Extension and Trade Association newsletters and emails to farmers in MA, CT and RI. Twenty-two diversified farmers participated. Some were dairy farms, fruit growers, greenhouse vegetable growers and field vegetable growers.
We continued our New England Greenhouse Update website where our greenhouse alerts are posted as messages using blog technology. The blog allows Extension educators with access to the web to log onto a website using a password and type information into a pre-formatted webpage. This allows information to be posted easily, making it timely for growers. The website also contains a section for photos that correspond to the messages. Photos are posted by Tina Smith, coordinator of the site. As part of our SARE grant we continued to solicit email addresses throughout the year from growers in MA, CT and RI and increased our list from 230 (Dec. 05) to 350 (Dec. 06). We solicited email addresses through trade magazines, association newsletters, Extension newsletters, Dept. of Agriculture newsletters and farm bureau newsletters and through a sign-up post card distributed at Extension programs in Connecticut and Massachusetts including the 2006 New England Greenhouse Conference. We also used faxes to reach growers who do not have email addresses. The web messages were faxed to 15 growers. We evaluated the website using an on-line survey that we emailed to the list. Results showed that the website and email alert system is very valuable to the participants.
We have planned an educational program for January 07, Integrated Pest Management and Weed Identification and Management for Container Perennials.
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 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 farms 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 diversity their businesses by successfully growing greenhouse plants for sale, increasing farm incomes.
One-to-one site visits
We implemented one-to-one site visits in spring 06. We solicited participation by publicizing the program in the New England Vegetable Grower’s Association newsletter, Massachusetts Extension Vegetable Growers newsletter, Fruit Growers newsletters, email list for farmers in MA, CT and RI, the Connecticut newsletters, Crop Talk, Plugged in and Ct Dept of Ag Weekly Bulletin and Rhode Island Farm Bureau newsletter. Twenty two diversified farmers participated. Some were dairy farms, fruit growers, greenhouse vegetable growers and field vegetable growers. Some farms were visited once and some were visited several times over the year.
We also provided information through one to one visits during fall 06 in Massachusetts and Connecticut to three diversified farms that grow poinsettias. We helped these growers to monitor their poinsettia crop for insects and diseases and review their plant nutrition program.
One growers tried the insect parasitic nematodes (Steinernema feltiae – ScanMask) against fungus gnat larvae on their cuttings.
Alert Program – 2006
We continued to solicit email addresses by publishing an article about the program in the following: Country Folks Magazine, Massachusetts Flower Growers Association newsletter, Massachusetts Extension newsletters for vegetable growers, fruit and berry growers and flower growers, Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources newsletter, Massachusetts Farm Bureau newsletter, Rhode Island Farm Bureau newsletter, Connecticut Department of Agriculture newsletter, CT Crop Talk – Commercial Vegetable and Fruit Crops Newsletter, Plugged In – Newsletter of the CT Greenhouse Growers Association. We also printed and distributed a postcard at programs to further publicize the program. We have 350 farmers signed up for the alert program, an increase of 100 from last year and 150 more than we proposed at this time. The early alert system through the email and website is a great benefit to the farmers and is proving to be a very successful program. This tool is reaching the farmers in a timely fashion and the farmers value the information. As an added benefit, trade magazine editors and industry representatives have requested to receive the emails and the information posted on the website is being distributed further. Of the 350 farmers who received regular emails with links to our alert website, 77 responded to our on-line evaluation and of those, 59 were from southern New England (MA, CT, RI). Of the responses, 97% improved their understanding of a pest problem due to the website, 81% checked that it aided in their choice of the most effective pesticide, 70% checked that it aided in the timing of a pesticide application, 85% checked that it alerted them to a pest problem that they might have missed, 90% checked that it assisted them in diagnosing a pest problem, 66% checked that the website assisted them in non-chemical management of pests. Some wrote comments at the end of evaluation. Comments like, “I find the archived info is really helpful and use your website as a valuable tool. Keep up the great work!” and “Getting the email messages has been extremely helpful. It put the up-to-minute issue in front of me. Several times I didn’t know what was happening to plants and got an email update and suddenly was on my way to getting the problem diagnosed and solved.” This project activity is supporting the NESARE outcome statement by having a positive influence on the environment and by helping farms to become successfully diversified and profitable. More farmers are adopting sustainable practices for greenhouse production as a result of this project. This is having a positive influence on the environment by reducing the use of high-risk pesticides. Since the beneficiaries are farmers who grow other agricultural crops or raise livestock, this project is also helping the farmers to diversity their businesses by successfully growing greenhouse plants for sale, increasing farm incomes.
An educational display was developed about the Greenhouse Health Maintenance program and was used during the 2006 New England Greenhouse Conference, Milikowski Co. Open House and Griffin Greenhouse Supply Open House. Leanne, Tina and Paul staffed exhibits at Milikowski and Griffin Open Houses passing out information and soliciting growers by growers for one-to-one site visits.
We have planned an educational program for January 07, Integrated Pest Management and Weed Identification and Management for Container Perennials. Topics will include IPM strategies to control key insects, diseases and weeds for the major types of perennials produced as well as new and emerging pests and diseases. The program will also include hands-on weed identification and management strategies. The publication “Integrated Pest Management Handbook for Herbaceous Perennials” will be updated and reprinted to be distributed at this program.
Extension Plant Pathologist
University of Massachusetts
Amherst, MA 01003
Office Phone: 4135771827
Director of Pathology Lab for Greenhouse Crops
University of Massachusetts
Dept. of Plant, Soil and Insect Sciences
Amherst, MA 01003
Office Phone: 4135451045
Professor & Extension Specialist
University of Connecticut
Agricultural Biotechnology Laboratory
1390 Storrs Rd, U-4163
Storrs, CT 06269-4163
Office Phone: 8604860627