Implementing a sustainable greenhouse health maintenance program
Thirty two diversified farmers participated in one-to-one site visits that were implemented in spring 07 in Connecticut (15), Massachusetts (15) and Rhode Island (2). A total of 182 site visits were conducted by three Extension Staff in Connecticut and Massachusetts. As a result of these visits, 16 growers changed practices associated with their soil fertility. Seventeen growers learned to identify insects, diseases and mites in their greenhouses through assistance with scouting and learned about managing their pests using safer pesticides. Six participants used microbial pesticides and/or biological control methods such as Trichoderma,Beauvaria bassiana, Bacillus thuringiensis, Hypoaspis miles and Neoseilus cucumeris and parasitic nematodes as a result of the site visits. Five growers were shown how to used on-site test kits for disease diagnosis in their greenhouse and ten growers learned about and changed a practice related to cultural practices. Participation was solicited by publicizing the program in Extension and Trade Association newsletters, through email lists and website. The diversified farms included dairy, fruit growers, greenhouse vegetable growers and field vegetable growers.
We continued our New England Greenhouse Update website where we posted information from our one-to one site visits as messages on a blog. The blog allows participation from Extension educators in different geographic areas to easily post messages into a pre-formatted webpage. We continued to expand the photo gallery and added a search button to that section. We continued to solicit email addresses throughout the year from growers in MA, CT and RI and increased our email list from 350 (Dec. 06) to 464 (Dec. 07). We solicited email addresses primarily at educational programs and exhibits held throughout the year. We also continued to use faxes to reach growers who do not have email addresses. The web messages were faxed to 20 growers.
Three hundred fifty farmers/growers participated in three NESARE sponsored educational programs during 07. Integrated Pest Management and Weed Identification and Management for Container Perennials was held January 07, 2007 Greenhouse Tomato Conference was held November 07 and Growing and Marketing Greener for Greenhouse Growers and Garden Retailers is being held December 07. All three programs were held at the Sturbridge Host Hotel which is centrally located, easy parking and familiar to farmers throughout New England.
The publication “Pest Management for Vegetable Bedding Plants” was updated, printed and distributed at the educational programs.
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.
We continued with our one-to-one visits primarily for spring crops. We posted information from our site visits on our blog as an early alert system for a larger audience of growers. They are emailed with a link to the blog every time a new message is posted. This has worked very well and we have received positive feedback from growers. We also conducted several sustainable greenhouse educational programs this year. We reached more growers than originally projected. Although our program is focused for diversified farms in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island, growers from through the Northeast have attended our educational programs and asked to be on our email list. Several greenhouse trade magazines regularly use the information from our blog for their email lists which has helped to reach more growers.
One-to-one site visits
Thirty two diversified farmers participated in one-to-one site visits that were implemented in spring 07 in Connecticut (15), Massachusetts (15) and Rhode Island (2). The farms included dairy, animals, Christmas trees, orchards, field and greenhouse vegetables and hay as part of their business in addition to greenhouses. Some growers were visited several times, other once or twice. A total of 182 site visits were conducted by three Extension Staff in Connecticut and Massachusetts. As a result of these visits, 16 growers changed practices associated with their soil fertility. These practices included, adjusting rates of fertilizer applications, installing fertilizer injectors for the first time (2), and changing the type of fertilizer used from a high ammonium based fertilizer to a nitrate fertilizer. Seventeen growers learned to use sticky cards properly and identify insects, diseases and mites in their greenhouses through assistance with scouting. They also learned about managing their pests using safer pesticides. Hunter flies, a natural enemy were discovered in a Connecticut greenhouse for the first time. Six participants used microbial pesticides and/or biological control methods including Trichoderma, Beauvaria bassiana, Bacillus thuringiensis, Hypoaspis miles and Neoseilus cucumeris and parasitic nematodes as a result of the site visits. Five growers were shown how to use on-site test kits for disease diagnosis in their greenhouse and ten growers learned about and changed a practice related to cultural practices. These included sanitation practices, managing oedema, properly using growth regulators temperature management, and placement of thermostats and thermometers in their greenhouse. Participation in the one-to-one site visits program was solicited through Extension and Trade Association newsletters, email lists and website.
Alert Program – 2007
We continued our New England Greenhouse Update website where we posted information from our one-to one site visits as messages on a blog. We signed up an additional 104 growers this year for a total email list of 464 that receive emails and links to the blog when a new message is posted. A survey card was requested from farmers signing up this year that contained questions to learn about the audience. Of the 90 responses, 54 grew ornamentals, 32 grew greenhouse vegetables, 29 field vegetables, 12 tree fruit producers, 21 small fruit producers, 1 dairy farmer, 2 beef farmers, 5 schools, 2 Christmas tree growers and several consultants and sales. Thirty four use organic practices and 47 do not, however 64 use integrated pest management practices and 8 do not. Only 3 have been in business 1-3 years, thirteen, 4-9 years, twenty seven 10-20 years, fifteen 20-30 years and seventeen more than 30 years. The early alert system through the email and website is a very successful program with positive unsolicited feedback this year. An on-line evaluation of the program was completed during December 06 which was reported on during 06. Two recent emails provide insight as to the value of the alerts. One grower emails back, “Great email, thanks so much…You are like my greenhouse conscience nagging me to do the right thing!” Another wrote, “Thanks for that newsletter update on Hunter Flies! I think that is what we have been seeing this fall on our cards. Good to know!”
The New England Greenhouse Update website had 5,903 visits according to google analytics and 20,404 pages were viewed. Of those visits, 4,116 were direct traffic (linked) via email alert.
The educational program “Integrated Pest Management and Weed Identification and Management for Container Perennials”, January 07 was attended by 110. Educational topics included IPM strategies to manage key insects, diseases, weeds for major perennial crops and new and emerging pests and diseases. The pesticide charts in the publication “Integrated Pest Management Handbook for Herbaceous Perennials” were updated, reprinted and distributed for this program. Fifty percent of the participants returned an evaluation. Of those, 100% checked that they learned something that they intend to use. Some of the specific knowledge learned included information on new pests, insect and disease identification, better monitoring and weed management, mulching and preventative skills. Seventy five percent think that they will benefit economically as a result of the program.
The program “2007 Greenhouse Tomato Conference”, November 07 was attended by 175, exceeding our expectations. Forty two percent completed an evaluation for the program. Of those 84% thought that they will benefit economically as a result of the program. Forty four percent felt that they are more prepared to implement sustainable horticultural practices following participation in the conference than before they attended. The evaluation asked participants to list one change they would be able to make as a result of participating in the conference. Thirty two participants wrote down a specific change that they would make as a result of the conference. Participants wrote in that they had would better use fertilizers because they had a better understanding of rates, better irrigation management, choose different varieties of tomatoes, use biological control, replace an existing hoop house with a higher structure and try cluster tomatoes, use record keeping, change their growing temperature, change lighting, use leaf pruning, and use better sanitation to use fewer pesticides. As a result of the hands-on grafting workshop, 17 wrote that they will graft their plants which is a practice used for better disease management.
The program “Growing and Marketing Greener for greenhouse growers and garden retailers” is being held December 07 and includes a variety of topics on organic greenhouse production and products and sessions on using biodegradable pots, plastics recycling, energy conservation, alternative energy and water conservation.
To reach as many diversified farms as possible for the educational programs, in addition to our Extension networks in Connecticut and Massachusetts, we published articles in Country Folks Grower (distributed throughout New England), and reached out to Extension staff in Rhode Island who sent out information through their agricultural network. We also reached growers through the New England Vegetable Growers Association.
An educational display was staffed at Milikowski Co. Open House and Griffin Greenhouse Supply Co. open houses by Leanne, Tina and Paul. Information was distributed about the educational programs and the New England Greenhouse Update website and growers signed up for the email list.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
Through the one-to-one site visits alone, over this past year 16 growers changed practices associated with their soil fertility and application, 17 learned to identify insects, diseases and mites in their greenhouses through assistance with scouting and learned about managing their pests using safer pesticides and 6 used microbial pesticides and/or biological control methods for the first time and 10 growers learned about and changed a practice related to cultural practices. These are all practices that were conducted by farmers who, by participating in the sustainable greenhouse management program, were able to reduce plant losses, grow better greenhouse crops and use sustainable practices like biological control. These practices resulted in successfully diversifying their farm businesses using greenhouses and having a positive influence on the environment.
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