180 ORAL SESSION (Abstr. 736-743) Education/Extension
Apple orchards are highly diversified and complex ecological and economic systems. Production is affected by a wide range of insect, disease, weed, and mammalian pests, and is subject to the same economic and social constraints as any business enterprise. A computer technology, expert systems (ES), is being used to assist fruit growers, county extension agents, and private consultants in making better decisions about the complex horticultural, entomological, and pathological orchard problems.
The first prison-based Master Gardener (MG) program in South Carolina was piloted at a minimum security prison for men and women in Columbia in 1991. Since then, 130 inmates have become certified MGs at 7 South Carolina Department of Corrections institutions. Certification is awarded after the inmates complete 40 hours of training provided by grounds maintenance staff, county extension agents, and MGs. Besides offering green-industry job skills, successfully completing the program offered inmates a sense of academic accomplishment and sparked their interest in horticulture.
CITPATH, a computerized diagnostic key and information system, was developed to identify the major fungal diseases of citrus foliage and fruit in Florida. This software provides hypertext-linked descriptions and graphic displays of symptoms, maps of geographic occurrence, diagrams of disease development, and management strategies, with reference to chemical control methods detailed in the current Florida Citrus Pest Management Guide. Reciprocal lists of citrus cultivars susceptible to specific diseases and diseases affecting specific cultivars are included. Developed for commercial growers, county extension programs, citrus horticulture classes, and master gardeners, this software is available for MS-DOS-based computers and on CD-ROM disks containing other citrus databases.
With funding to increase support for organic farming research at land grant universities, organic growers have collaborated with faculty and administrators to develop an undergraduate, interdisciplinary minor at the University of Florida. Required introductory courses focus on general concepts of organic and sustainable farming, alternative cropping systems, production programs, handling, and marketing issues. An advanced horticulture course requires intensive examination of certification procedures, farm plans, soil fertility, and crop management, all of which are integrated into a required field project. Extension faculty have also fostered development of this new curriculum by coordinating regional workshops and field days in collaboration with organic growers and by developing educational materials on organic certification and related issues.
The Florida Cooperative Extension Service (FCES) teaches residents the importance of proper landscaping practices. FCES offers several educational programs that teach residents how to integrate energy and water conservation, pest management, and waste recycling practices into their home landscapes. In 1997, extension staff and volunteers planned and conducted environmental landscape management (ELM) programs resulting in >800,000 customer contacts. A survey was conducted to measure the adoption of recommended best management practices by program participants and nonparticipants. Results show that, of 39 practices examined, Master Gardener trainees increased the number of practices used by an average of 7.3, while educational seminar and publications-only participants increased by an average of 4.5 and 2.8 practices, respectively. Nonparticipants showed essentially no change. When practices are examined one at a time, the Master Gardeners made statistically significant increases in 28 of the 39 recommended practices. Educational seminar and publications-only participants made similar gains in 31 and 6 practices, respectively, and the nonparticipant comparison group made significant increases in 2 practices and decreases in 8. The results suggest that the publications-only strategy for delivering information to homeowners is less effective than strategies combining educational seminars or intensive training with relevant publications.
The trend in extension education is toward greater specialization and increased responsibility among the field staff for the educational programs directed to specific audiences. This generally leads to a greater demand for in-service training of extension agents. It is often true that the specialized extension agent arrives on his job with more training in his speciality, but sadly lacking in much of the knowledge and many of the skills essential to conduct an effective extension program in his area of responsibility. Though most good extension workers gradually acquire essential knowledge and develop skills through their own efforts, they should reach a desirable level of competence in much less time if some formal in-service training is provided. For experienced personnel, programs to help keep them up-to-date are highly desirable, and in some cases, special training is needed to prepare them for new responsibilities.
Access to weather information for planning and implementing horticultural practices is an important component of the production system for growers. Advances in meteorological instrumentation, data acquisition and storage, and communications technologies have improved greatly the potential for applying sophisticated weather information into daily on-farm decisionmaking. The North Carolina Agricultural Weather Program seeks to provide weather information to the horticultural interests of the state. It has developed over the past 13 years. Recently, budget reductions near 50% and the loss of two-thirds of the extension full-time equivalents have necessitated significant changes. Through regional cooperation and the use of electronic communications technology, the program has sustained these negative impacts and emerged as an improved program. This paper describes the evolution of a state agricultural weather program into what is now a regional cooperative project to provide the weather information horticultural producers require.
Under most circumstances, some type of storage, from ephemeral to long-term, is an asset in the marketing of horticultural products. However, attempts to transfer developed country (DC) storage technology to the less-developed countries (LDCs) can be futile unless two conditions are met: 1) There must be a prior extension program to introduce the concept of what produce storage involves and what benefits can be expected from its proper use; and 2) the storage techniques introduced must be appropriate for the area. In many circumstances it may be necessary to start with very simple “old-fashioned” methods. Stages of development in LDCs are described, together with suggestions as to appropriate storage methods for each stage and how to prepare for them.
A microcomputer-based bulletin board using the FIDO software package was established at the Univ. of Massachusetts for the distribution of information in the cooperative extension programs of home horticulture, fruits, vegetables, cranberries, and integrated pest management. System establishment costs were under $3000, and costs for the first year were about $200 for the maintenance of a telephone line. The system logged 4595 calls from university personnel, county extension staff, state agencies, and farmers during the first year of operation (July 1986 to June 1987). A total of 307 individual information files were uploaded to the system by both university and county extension staff, while 387 downloads occurred from the system.