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iSNAP: Integrated Soil, Nutrient and Pest Management Project
Project Description

Compelling evidence of widespread surface and groundwater contamination across the US was compiled by the US Geological Service (USGS) through the National Water Quality Assessment Program. During the 1990s over 50 river basins and aquifers were studied across the country revealing an urgent need for more effective chemical management. Losses of pesticides and nutrients from agricultural fertilizers represented a serious water quality concern: between 1992 and 2001 the USGS found at least one pesticide in each stream sampled (USGS, 2006)

The USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) is charged with supporting landowners in protecting natural resources through competitive, cost-share programs and by providing direct support in developing conservation plans. To enable farmers to implement science-based, effective practices, agency staff required training in nutrient and pest management, focusing on practices that would prevent or mitigate pollutants from reaching ground and surface waters.

To address this educational challenge a team of university and extension faculty, initially supported by a USDA National Water Program grant developed a comprehensive education program that integrated the latest science with decision-support tools. Team members had expertise in adult education and program evaluation, soil science, crop production and nutrition, pesticide fate and transport and integrated pest management. These areas were integrated to develop innovative and locally-relevant education programs. The Integrated Soil Nutrient and Pest Water Quality Education Program (iSNAP) was established as a vehicle to develop this unified approach. The initial target audience was information providers in agencies and industry that work directly with farmers on both pest and nutrient management. Two years later, funding was acquired to provide education to farmers to increase their skills in making pest management decisions that also protect the environment.

Funding sources: USDA National Integrated Water Quality Program, Western Region IPM Center and USDA Risk Management Agency

Project Aims:

Aims:

  1. Build a sustainable partnership across the Pacific Northwest with public and private groups that are aligned with supporting water resource protection.
  2. Employ a coordinated, regional approach to exploit the best tools and science in to support technical advisors in pest and nutrient management practices that protect water resources.
  3. Design distinct education programs to meet the needs of natural resource agency staff that serve as technical information providers, and farmers that seek to implement practical, effective solutions to production challenges.
  4. Conduct nutrient and pest management education programs that focus on the necessary knowledge and skills necessary to address challenges in the Willamette Valley in Oregon and Washington with a focus on horticultural crop production, the Snake River Plain of Idaho to explore options for low impact potato production, and planning for dairy manure management, and the Columbia Plateau of central Washington to explore potato production and optimized fertilizer management.
  5. Continuously improve the program through evaluation and feedback, and document the impact of the farmer education program.

Outcomes:

We designed workshop curricula that integrated pesticide and nutrient management as well as providing tools to reduce the opportunity for pesticides, fertilizers and manure to reach water resources. The programs connected effective strategies and best management practices to the site-specific pest and nutrient issues. The highest levels of learning reported at the professional workshops was for 1) determining effective pesticide risk mitigation options to protect water quality, and 2) explaining management options to reduce pesticide drift. The farmers at workshop on IPM plan development reported new skills in creating their own IPM plans and increasing IPM practices on their farms.

Five months after two workshops on accessing and using climate and weather data to inform pest management decisions the participating farmers (n=23) reported:
1) that nearly 75 percent had considered sensitive sites before applying pesticides, 2) 30 percent had sought more information on options to reduce off-target pesticide losses, and 3) 87 percent had adjusted their spray equipment to reduce pesticide drift.

Towards the end of the project the project team reflected on what they had gained from this experience; three key insights were captured:

  1. Having an intentional education design allowed adequate focus on teaching the key skills learners need to make progress. Using an outcome-based education approach takes more time in the planning and development phases than traditional content-based approaches that most educators are familiar with.
  2. It is crucial to have localized content, including specific cropping systems, pests, soil types and more, to ensure programs provide learning experiences that can be transferred to the learners’ context.
  3. Effective program evaluation can support real-time program improvement; in this case the coordinator and team members learned from the feedback provided by participants and made changes to each successive education event.

The iSNAP project was the progenitor for the Pesticide Stewardship Partnerships project, and Reducing pesticide risks to farmers and the environment in the Senegal and Niger River Basins project.

Key Activities:
  • Convene advisory team meetings, including NRCS, EPA and other stakeholders, to ensure the project plan was aligned with current agency priorities and state-specific issues
  • Outcome-based design process was implemented to create learning experiences using locally-derived crop-specific case examples
  • Five two-day comprehensive nutrient and pest management workshops with active learning experiences were conducted in Idaho, Oregon and Washington for technical resource providers with a total attendance of 229 (see link)
  • Seven pesticide drift reduction and risk management workshops for growers were held in Oregon and Washington with 294 participants (see link)
  • Additional nutrient and pest management education was provided by team members at nine large existing events reaching 649 people
  • Evaluation plan development that included at-event surveys to allow for learning to be captured and project improvements to be made and a follow-up evaluation with grower participants to document actions taken on their farms.
  • An IPM extension publication needs assessment was undertaken across seven states
IPM Impacts:

This work demonstrated the importance of centering education program design on the learner. Our approach focused learning experiences on actively building skills and this enabled deeper learning through the application of skills in a problem-solving context. The process evolved over the course of the project with increasing clarity gained in the core elements of pest and nutrient management knowledge that underlie the specific needs of both technical information providers and farming audiences. For more details see the final reports to the NWP or Western Region IPM Program.

Outputs:
  1. Halbleib, M.L. and Jepson, P.C. (2015) Adapting an outcome-based education development process to meet near real-time challenges to sustainable agricultural production. The Journal of Agricultural Education and Extension, 21 (2),109-126. (see link)
  2. Buffers on Your Land online narrated learning module (EM8966)
  3. Pesticide Drift Management illustrated guides in Spanish and English (EM8934)
  4. Irrigation Water Quality for Crop Protection in the Pacific Northwest (PNW597)
  5. Managing Salt-Affected Soils for Crop Production (PNW601)
  6. Poster presentation at Water, Wildlife and Pesticides in the West Symposium, The iSNAP Project: The Benefits and Challenges of an Outcome-Based Education Project
  7. Two articles in The Good Fruit Grower Managing Pesticide Drift and Putting Buffers to Work article, March 2007 (1, 2)
  8. Two PNW Regional Water Program newsletter articles, 2005 and 2006

IPPC Partners

NRCS (ID, WA and OR), US EPA, Washington State University, University of Idaho, Idaho and Washington State Pesticide Safety Education Programs, Oregon and Idaho IPM Programs, Far West Agribusiness Association, Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakima Nation, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Soil and Water Conservation Districts, and Washington Department of Ecology


Project Overview

Type: Funded Projects
Theme: Risk management
Start year: 2003
Status: Complete
Project Leads

Mary Halbleib
Paul Jepson
Project Teams

Dan Sullivan
Jeffery Jenkins
Sandy Halstead
Ed Bechinksi
Rhonda Hirnyck
John Stark
Catherine Daniels
Bob Stevens
Don Horneck
Brad Brown
Joe Harrison
Len Coop
Darrin Walenta
Lynn Long