Finalists of the 2014 SARE/NACAA Search for Excellence in Sustainable Agriculture program are:
North Central Region
For most Missouri produce auction growers, tomatoes are their top cash crop. An important issue relating to tomatoes is determining which variety should be grown in different cultural situations (greenhouse, high tunnel, or field). Growers discuss this among themselves, review new releases, tender their customers’ opinions, and review recommendations from reputable sources. The team used outreach efforts, such as farm tours, ‘off-season’ workshops, ‘in-season’ pest review sessions, and field visits to get in touch with their intended audience. Teaching centered on the Midwest Vegetable Production Guide for Commercial Growers, a six state collaborative Extension resource. Over 1500 participants attended outreach events through 2013. Increased knowledge was confirmed through pre- and post-event assessments.
To aide these growers, who are primarily Amish and Mennonite and market through wholesale distribution facilities, a comprehensive survey was mailed in December 2013. Growers that were sent the survey are those who receive a free quarterly newsletter (Extension’s IPM Bulletin) which has been published since 2010—370 growers were on the mailing list in 2013. The survey contained sixteen questions; the response rate was 36%. They found that ninety-nine respondents grew tomatoes with 75 in the field, 54 in greenhouses, and 37 in high tunnels. Scarlet Red, Florida 91 and Rocky Top were the top three field varieties. Bigdena, Rocky Top and Goliath were the top three greenhouse varieties. Growers were asked to pick between three factors for their variety decision- marketability, productivity or hardiness. Marketability was most selected for both field and greenhouses. The top three heirlooms were Hillbilly, Brandywine and Cherokee Purple. Growers were also asked which new varieties they were most excited about; they were Red Bounty, Beorange, and Red Deuce. A sixteen page report was developed and inserted into their February quarterly newsletter. The survey report confirmed a number of desirable impacts: increased use of IPM, more growers and increased acreage, improved trust and engagement of Extension. It also provided direction for future programming; concern areas were input cost, food safety, conservation of natural resources, and honeybee preservation
Mastitis is an inflammation of the mammary gland and is prevalent in dairy herds around the world. It is associated with the most frequent antibiotic use in dairy cows and can be caused by a wide range of bacteria. It is also the most costly diseases affecting the dairy industry, with estimates suggesting each case is associated with a $231-$289 loss. Producers suffer losses through reduced production, discarded milk, veterinarian services, culling cows and treatment costs. The objectives for this program was to have dairy producers increase knowledge of mastitis-causing bacteria, decrease the number of cases of clinical mastitis and implement the use of “on-farm” culturing. Participants were educated on the importance of knowing what types of bacteria were causing mastitis on their farm and how to effectively treat those bacteria for increased chance of cure.
Participants were also given tools to identify bacteria growth using the Penn State Quad-Plate for “on-farm” culturing. Education was delivered through one-day workshops, field days, and continual interaction with producers. NE SARE funds were also made available through a partnership grant to involve eight producers across the state in this project. These farms implemented “on-farm” culturing and are tracking clinical mastitis, bacteria identification, treatment methods and cure rates. This program reached a total of 419 participants with 80% (N=124) indicating the intent to implement “on-farm” culturing on their farm. A six month follow up evaluation was implemented by phone indicating that 100% (N=12) of participants implemented “on- farm” culturing to manage mastitis. 100% (N=12) decreased the number of cases of clinical mastitis and 75% (N=12) decreased the use of antibiotics on their farm. Participants experienced an average increase in profit of $5664 per farm based on lower levels of mastitis and an additional $920 per farm due to judicial use of antibiotics.
In Alabama, small farm fruit and vegetable production is one of the fastest growing sectors within the vast agriculture industry. Specialty crop production is currently valued at $61.5 million in Alabama and increasing rapidly with emphasis on local food systems. Prior to 2010, Alabama did not have a sustainable agriculture campaign. In 2010, the Alabama Vegetable IPM Program initiated a ‘small farm/organic IPM campaign’ for filing the gap in producer training and provide support services for transitioning producers. A three-step training curriculum was developed for producers along with over 40 publications, websites, blogs and social media channels (www.aces.edu/go/87).
The team used a Farmer-Centric Training Model since peer-to-peer and hands-on training is still the best technology transfer systems for producers based on feedback. The sustainable agriculture program received and continues to receive SARE PDP funds and producer awards, in addition to significant funding from USDA OAREI, Walmart Foundation, and industry grants. Project evaluation is a continuous process; a variety of evaluation techniques are used to consistently measure project impacts. Recent surveys indicate the average increase in knowledge to be over 50% among respondents. The average IPM adoption rate is about 40% (~10% increase yearly). Highest rate of adoption is for OMRI-approved insecticides that have increased farm income.
Without this education campaign, producers would potentially lose over 50% of the crop. Overall, the direct impact of this intensive educational campaign averages $289 per acre based on 15 cases studies (2013) and $4 million statewide (estimated). A preliminary impact video has been posted at http://youtu.be/aqrjQINLUdw.
Dr. Clive Kaiser, OSU/Umatilla County Ag & Horticulture Extension Faculty, Oregon State University
In apples, codling moth is a quarantine pest for several international markets. Taiwan has a "3-strike" policy, which shuts down the US apple market when the third positive identification is made. In 2004, the third strike came from Milton-Freewater, OR in the Walla Walla Valley and cost the Pacific Northwest an estimated $26 million in lost foreign exchange. The Codling Moth Area-wide Mating disruption program (CAMP), using high concentrations of codling moth pheromones, has been in effect throughout each growing season since 2004 and additional efforts have been made to reduce the incidence of codling moth in the Walla Walla Valley. A daily trapping program is e-mailed to the growers every evening detailing where the codling moth is found in the Valley. Trap counts are also Google mapped in real-time. The map is housed on the OSU Umatilla County Extension website and is available unrestricted to all growers and field men.
Ongoing efforts to educate growers about timing and efficacy of alternative chemistries, which target only the eggs or larvae, have been successful in replacing broad spectrum organophosphates. Indeed, the sales volume of chemicals was reduced linearly from about 22,500 lbs per season in 2007 to ~6,700 lbs in 2010. Since then volumes have reduced further to about 5,600 lbs of product and these levels have been sustained for the last three years. Furthermore, the number of full cover sprays being applied per block per season has been reduced from on average 8 per year to 3 per year. Growers have also been educated on how to deal with "hotspots" and the original 8 in 2007 have been reduced to 5 by 2013. Additional efforts to remove home garden trees in the City of Milton Freewater since 2011 have been successful in replacing more than 3,700 home garden trees with non-host shade trees.