Improving field crop extension outreach through enhanced growing season communication opportunities

Date: 

2012 to 2014

Summary: 

Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) educators are Cornell University’s front line in helping New York field crop producer clientele with crop production and pest management issues. Keeping CCE personnel informed on the latest information and developments helps us meet Cornell’s high standards for extension outreach and provides clientele with quality, pertinent, timely, and user-friendly programs and resources that maximize our educational impacts. Enhancing communication opportunities between CCE county and campus personnel helps strengthen the outreach network and is an important component of CCE’s professional development. 2013 marked the sixth year for this project. Twenty-three conference calls were held from the period May 2 – October 10 to improve campus and field staff communication regarding field crop pest and crop management issues during the growing season. Twenty-eight extension educators and field crop faculty enrolled, calls average 13 participants per call and lasted 45 minutes. Conference call participants were better equipped to conduct their outreach efforts and meet the field crop pest management needs of their stakeholder. Summaries of pest observations and follow-up articles were included in the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program online blog the “Field Crop IPM Weekly Pest Report” (http://blogs.cornell.edu/ipmwpr/#). Articles from this newsletter were used in many CCE county and regional newsletters, reaching an estimated 11,000 subscribers.

Issue: 

Integral to regular communication and team building is an open exchange of information between individuals with varying levels of experience. Seasoned experts are able to help new extension personnel gain a statewide perspective of production issues and opportunities in real time. Regular dialogues provide a forum for review and discussion of new information and technologies, including strengths, weaknesses, and advantages of adoption. Frequent communication assures our unified vision and strengthens our consistent outreach message. These exchanges are often instrumental in helping to identify applied research needs, local demonstration opportunities, and the development of outreach resources/programs.

Response: 

A series of 23 conference calls were held weekly (May 2 – October 10) in 2013 to improve campus and field staff communication regarding field crop pest and crop management issues during the growing season. Each 45-minute conference call involved CCE field crop educators and faculty sharing information and updates on statewide observations of crop growth/development, pest status, selected pest management, and other topics. Conference calls were open to all CCE personnel with field crop responsibilities. A total of 25 CCE educators participated over the course of the growing season. An average of 13 extension educators with field crop and general agriculture responsibilities participated per meeting. The conference call series provided CCE personnel the opportunity to share current statewide field observations and discuss questions and management recommendations. Meeting activities and agenda included: participant introductions, weekly weather outlook, discussion of county and statewide pest observations and crop growth and development, and other selected pest management topics. Meetings concluded with a special topic presentation or suggested IPM activities for the week. Links and supplemental information discussed during the conference call were shared with participants via follow up email.
The season 2013 growing season was marked by early season rainy weather conditions that delayed planting, affected weed control efforts including timing of pre- and post-plant herbicide applications. Insect and disease issues were generally moderate to low this season with the exception of potato leafhopper populations in eastern NY, an increase in western bean cutworm populations, late season issues with northern corn leaf blight and Gray leaf spot in corn and the Fusarium Head Blight (wheat) prediction model did not hold up particularly well this season. Bird damage to corn and wheat presented issues again this season.
Weather outlook and field observations were summarized for inclusion in the Field Crop IPM Weekly Pest Report blog, a publication shared with field crop farmers, extension personnel and other agricultural professionals via the world wide web on the NYS IPM Program website (http://nysipm.cornell.edu/fieldcrops/tag/pestrpt/default.asp). Supplemental information discussed during the conference call were shared with call participants via follow up email.

Impact: 

The objective of this effort was to improve the timely statewide communication of pest management and crop production among field crop CCE personnel during the growing season.
As in previous years (2008-2012) of field crop conference call implementation, CCE personnel with field crop responsibilities took advantage of the weekly opportunity to share observations, gain insights, acquire and present practical knowledge and technical information in an in-house professional development environment. These timely efforts enhanced field crop extension personnel (educators and faculty) communication and awareness on current pest and crop conditions. In addition, the timely forum allowed for discussion of anticipated pest, crop and weather issues, integrated pest and crop management and potential extension programming opportunities. The majority of those involved are repeat participants each year with new extension field staff joining in the discussions with more experienced field staff. Twenty-five individuals have regularly participated and contributed to the effort and it’s success over its six year duration. Project evaluations have documented participants found value in the timely updates, discussion, professional development and team building aspects of the conference calls that could then be used to increase potential extension outreach impacts with stakeholders.
The primary benefit of the conference call program lies in the enhanced communication and professional development of the extension personnel involved. Stakeholders ultimately benefit from this effort through the potential enhanced extension outreach impacts related to an increased timely awareness of pest issues, pre-emptive monitoring and management of potential pest problems that help grower stakeholders minimize or avoid pest impacts, better address pesticide use decisions and protect net profitability.
Weekly calls helped CCE field crop personnel keep informed on current status of statewide pest issues and provided a forum for detailed discussions on a variety of topics including: updates on the Fusarium Head Blight prediction model and fungicide use decision making (wheat), corn fungicide use considerations, western bean cutworm updates on risk to sweet and field corn and dry bean, weed management recommendations and decision making, vertebrate damage to field crops, sharing of timely resources and field monitoring reminders.
Participant program evaluations confirmed the field crop conference calls enhanced CCE outreach through timely communication among extension field staff enabling improvements to local outreach. CCE personnel could easily transform knowledge and insights gained from conference call discussions into direct outreach to local stakeholders resulting in improvements in cost effective and environmentally sound pest management decision-making.
End of season program evaluations were very positive with general agreement that participation in the conference calls was a very worthwhile experience, increased participant awareness of current field issues, provided pertinent timely information critical for outreach and identified a “go-to” person if additional information was needed. A specific example of field crop conference call impacts: Local weather during time of wheat flowering was not supportive of Fusarium development. The Fusarium Head Blight (FHB) prediction model and map showed a low risk of FHB for that period. However, comments by another extension colleague based on observations and local ground truthing by growers who tested their wheat that detected significant levels of the mycotoxins DON in Fusarium infected wheat heads. The second CCE specialist immediately contacted the 6 major wheat growers in his area to test their wheat. As a result, some found significant DON levels. The advanced warning and pre-harvest testing saved them an expensive trip to the mill and refusal.
In addition to the weekly conference call audience, the Weekly Field Crop Conference call was discussed and the program evaluation shared as a topic within the Livestock and Field Crop IPM update at the Cornell Cooperative Extension November 2013 CCE In Service, Ithaca NY 11/20/13.

Submitted by: 

International focus: 

  • United States of America

United States focus: 

  • New York