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    May 2012
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In the field, in the classroom or in the living room: University of Tennessee IPM Education

Transportation can often be a hindrance to education for adults. Residents in remote towns beyond city bus lines can’t travel when the car breaks down. High gas prices mean that car trips must be planned and limited to necessary errands. So when the University Extension Service offers a workshop on IPM, farmers must decide whether the trip to the workshop location is worth the extra money for gas. To relieve Tennessee soybean farmers of that decision, Extension specialists in the University of Tennessee IPM program bring the training to the farmer.

UT Extension Specialist Scott Stewart, winner of the 2012 Friends of IPM Educator award, offers soybean growers IPM training and advice through field workshops, one-on-one demonstrations, and online newsletters and videos. Stewart’s expertise is in both cotton and soybeans; however, he says that soybean growers tend not to rely on professional consultants as much in soybean as do cotton farmers. Soybean growers face a barrage of insect pests, plant diseases and weed problems that can take a huge bite out of profits, so growers must choose their trips carefully. Sometimes driving to a scout school that may be several counties away just takes too much time and gas during a busy time of year.

“When you’re educating people, you have to do it in a variety of ways,” says Stewart. “If you do just one way, you’re going to miss people. So sometimes you just have to take the training to them.”

Stewart and his colleagues offer soybean scout training programs, consisting of in-field workshops that move through the state. Lately, he says, IPM specialists have been targeting growers in middle Tennessee, since those growers are just now beginning to see some of the pest problems that showed up in the fields of growers in the western part of the state in previous years.

Stewart provides training on the sampling and management of annual insect pests such as stink bugs, corn earworm, and loopers.  The recently introduced kudzu bug is on Stewart’s radar. Kudzu bugs are already well established in South Carolina and Georgia, but they are spreading into North Carolina and Alabama.  It seems only a matter of time before they find the Volunteer State, so Stewart alerts growers to keep an eye out for it.

Along with diseases such as frogeye leaf spot and charcoal rot, weeds are a major problem for growers. Glyphosate-resistant weeds like Palmer pigweed, horseweed and goosegrass are now plaguing soybean growers in western and central Tennessee. Stewart says that before the introduction of glyphosate, growers used a system of methods to prevent and control weeds, including rotating crops, cultivation practices, using pre-emergent herbicides, and using post-emergent herbicides during the growing season. As glyphosate becomes less and less effective, growers have to relearn old technology.

“It’s hard to go back from making a couple of over-the-top sprays to the old system,” says Stewart. “Many growers are finding that they have to go back to the old ways of rotating crops, using pre-emergent herbicides, and scouting to be successful.”

Gaining in popularity is UT’s Virtual Soybean Scout School, online at http://www.utcrops.com/soybean/VSSchool.htm. Designed for growers who cannot attend any of the field workshops or those who want to brush up on IPM information and tactics, the Virtual Soybean Scout School contains four short YouTube videos on specific topics: plant growth and development, weed identification and management, insect scouting and disease management. The virtual school is funded by the Tennessee Soybean and Promotion Board and the United Soybean Board.

The virtual world is also helping Stewart distribute his IPM newsletter as well. About a year ago Stewart and his colleagues began blogging in-season crop management information rather than sending hard copies or PDF files in the traditional newsletter format. The change has not only gained him a larger audience (15% to 20% of his readers accessed the news from smart devices), but it has helped him better track what readers are interested in and where they are coming from. Last year’s statistics showed over 25,000 clients visited the news blog, viewing over 53,000 pages of content. The newsletter is housed at http://news.utcrops.com/.

For more information about the Tennessee IPM program or about soybean, corn and cotton pest management, go to http://www.utcrops.com/.

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