Advancing the role of integrated pest management, including effective use of pesticides, is critical to controlling the spread of harmful pests and diseases. It is estimated that 40 percent of global crops are lost to agricultural pests each year.
The US Department of Agriculture Strategic Plan 2018-2022 emphasizes prevention and mitigation of agricultural pests and disease. There are recognized, undesirable effects associated with application and misuse of pesticides, especially by the general public without knowledge or training in pesticide safety. The potential to negatively impact pollinators is one of those effects.
Pollinator health and sustainable colonies is critical for In the United States. One third of all agricultural output depends on pollinators. Insects and other animal pollinators are vital to the production of healthy crops for food, fibers, edible oils, medicines, and other products. The commodities produced with the help of pollinators generate significant income for producers and those who benefit from a productive agricultural community. Pollinators are also essential components of the habitats and ecosystems that many wild animals rely on for food and shelter.
As part of eXtension’s New Technologies for Agricultural Extension (NTAE) Cooperative Agreement with USDA-NIFA, the eXtension Foundation is partnering with four existing programs aligned with USDA strategic goals across Cooperative Extension in Year 1 to explore new methods and models for program scale and implementation. These initiatives are being documented in a series of eFieldbooks to inform the system of the models, learnings, and outcomes. Professional development opportunities will be created and delivered centered upon these learnings and offered to the entire system beginning in 2020.
One initiative identified for partnership is a mass media effort led by the National Pesticide Safety Education Center (NPSEC). NPSEC supports and serves Extension Pesticide Safety Education Programs (PSEPs) to be the premier national source of high quality research-based pesticide safety education.
Increasing the level of awareness about pesticides and their impact on pollinators by the general public can help to sustain pollinators around homes, farms and businesses. This project led by NPSEC will target messaging about pollinators using mass media (radio, digital, social) to reach a larger audience than is typical with most Extension messaging, will direct the audience to additional Extension resources and will develop a methodology to measure audience engagement, including change in behavior and implementation of practices benefiting both native and managed pollinators. The approach will be pilot tested in a select group of Texas communities and the content resources available through Texas AgriLife Extension, and the established connections with the Texas Pesticide Safety Education Program (PSEP) and state apiary inspector.
Kara Maddox, Communications and Engagement Manager for NPSEC is serving as an eXtension funded Fellow to produce an eFieldbook focused on using large-scale mass media techniques to achieve measurable behavior changes and adoption of new practices. The pollinator stewardship initiative will serve as the example of the mass media campaign for this eFieldbook. An eFieldbook is a digital, curated, peer-reviewed collection of program resources that provide multimedia communication and interaction between and among experts, individuals, teams, partners, and other content contributors. Professional development opportunities will be delivered to the entire system through eXtension’s new FlexLearn platform to provide information and support for replicating this model across the system. FlexLearn will be available for the entire system in Spring, 2020.
Three other program initiatives have been selected for 2019-2020 aligned with USDA strategic goals including a program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln centered upon row crop producers taking risk-reducing strategies to build farm resilience against weather and climate incidents, and a food sovereignty initiative in partnership with the College of Menominee Nation and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Topic areas and programs were identified by a three-member Catalyst team consisting of former senior Extension leaders that address USDA strategic goals. The Catalyst Team includes:
- Scott Reed, Former Vice Provost University Outreach & Engagement, and Director of Extension at Oregon State University
- Fred Schlutt, Former Director of Cooperative Extension at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks
- Jimmy Henning, Faculty, Plant & Soil Sciences Department, and Former Director, Cooperative Extension Service, University of Kentucky
About the eXtension Foundation
The eXtension Foundation is a membership-based non-profit designed to be the engine fueling U.S. Cooperative Extension’s advancement in making a more visible and measurable impact in support of education outreach from land-grant universities/colleges located in every state and territory. eXtension provides an array of opportunities for Extension professionals that foster innovation creation, the adoption of innovations at member institutions, and increased impact of Extension programs.
This work is supported by New Technologies for Agriculture Extension grant no. 2015-41595-24254 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. 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.