Regional Educational Campaign for High Tunnel Vegetable Producers, Limited Resource, and Veteran Farms via On-Farm Pest Exclusion and Natural Enemy Demonstrations, Publications, and Self-help Tools

Project Overview

LS19-314
Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2019: $49,648.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2022
Grant Recipient: Auburn University
Region: Southern
State: Alabama
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Ayanava Majumdar
Alabama Cooperative Extension System, Auburn University

Commodities

Not commodity specific

Practices

  • Crop Production: high tunnels or hoop houses, shade cloth
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer
  • Pest Management: integrated pest management
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture

    Proposal abstract:

    Organic fruit and vegetable production is a multi-billion dollar industry with the fastest growth among agriculture sectors. Various other innovative programs, like the slow-food movement, farm-to-school, and farm-to-table, have strengthened demand for local foods resulting in increasing consumer demand for organic foods. Alabama is one of the states that truly reflects this national growth trends in organic and local food production in terms of the growing number of fruit and vegetable farms, beginning farmers, farmers markets and wholesale. The Alabama SARE and Vegetable Integrated Pest Management programs are two of the largest inter-dependent cross-regional educational programs with 10 years of consistent success. The programs educate nearly 1,000 small producers directly through on-farm visits, consultations, demonstrations, and workshops preventing 50 percent or more of crop loss and contamination. Using a sophisticated communication and evaluation system, the Alabama SARE program coordinated by the PI has developed educational content that needs to reach an increasing number of vegetable producers with high tunnels that have long suffered catastrophic crop losses from year-round pest infestations. For example, the high tunnel pest exclusion system or HTPE is a novel low-cost tactic using shade cloths to prevent insect pests on crops from end-and side-walls. Based on four years of on-farm and laboratory-based research, HTPE technology is ready for dissemination regionally to farmers for immediate impacts. Overall, this proposal aims at a “push-pull” educational model aiming to: 1. Establish shade-cloth based high tunnel pest exclusion and biocontrol field demonstrations in Alabama, Georgia, and the Florida Panhandle in cooperation with Extension Agents from three land-grant universities and key producers; 2. Establish a regional communication and training system in AL/FL/GA to provide high tunnel crop producers and educators new learning opportunities; 3. Develop distance-learning (online course) and printed resources (high tunnel crop production handbook/e-book, IPM slide charts, and project marketing materials) incorporating multi-level sustainable IPM/crop production recommendations; 4. Conduct multi-state project evaluations and outcomes monitoring for reporting purposes via the “Evaluation Toolkit” website. This project is geared toward benefiting growers, educators and certified technical service producers and field agents across AL/GA/FL. The major outputs of this project will be six on-farm HTPE demonstrations at new locations, two high tunnel workshops in each state, development of organic vegetable production slide charts, IPM newsletters, High Tunnel Crop Production e-book, and training modules in an e-curriculum. Assuming prevention of 50 percent crop losses on direct participating farms, we anticipate a cost:benefit ration of HTPE system to be 10:1 minimum for a single crop (that is, $10 return for every dollar invested in IPM technology). The overall expected impact may be $47,200 (estimate) per year for direct and indirect participants or $94,400 for the entire project period. This is a significant return based on 100 percent direct and only 30 percent indirect producer participants changing their behavior; this assessment doe not include community level impacts or assessment of environmental impacts from reduced pesticide usage.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    • 1. Establish shade-cloth based high tunnel pest exclusion and biocontrol field demonstrations in Alabama, Georgia, and the Florida Panhandle in cooperation with Extension Agents from three land-grant universities and key producers;
    • 2. Establish a regional communication and training system in AL/FL/GA to provide high tunnel crop producers and educators new learning opportunities;
    • 3. Develop distance-learning (online course) and printed resources (high tunnel crop production handbook/e-book, IPM slide charts, and project marketing materials) incorporating multi-level sustainable IPM/crop production recommendations;
    • 4. Conduct multi-state project evaluations and outcomes monitoring for reporting purposes via the “Evaluation Toolkit” website.
    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.