Who’s making the decisions?
Scientists want to get pest information into the hands of growers.
A thousand pear growers in Washington and Oregon received a survey this spring asking about their pest management practices.
Dr. Jessica Goldberger at Washington State University’s Department of Crop and Soil Sciences in Pullman, is conducting the survey as part of the multiregion project “Enhancing Biological Control in Western Orchards.”
Teams of researchers from Washington, Oregon, and California have been researching how to enhance biological control of apple, pear, and walnut pests. One important aspect of the multiyear $4.5 million project is outreach, to ensure that the results of the research get into the hands of growers.
Walnut, pear, and apple growers are being surveyed to find out how they make their pest management decisions and the extent to which they have already adopted practices that enhance biological control.
A survey of 2,600 California walnut growers last year showed that growers relied most of all on pest control advisors from chemical companies for pest management advice. People they relied the least on included family members and immediate neighbors.
The survey also showed that around 75 percent of growers considered economic cost and human health impacts to be very important factors in their pest management decisions. Environmental impacts were rated very important by 60 percent of the growers.
More than a third of the growers reported that they had increased their use of insecticides that are less harmful to nontarget species and reduced their use of more harmful pesticides. The survey also revealed an increase in monitoring for both pests and natural enemies.
The pear survey, which was sent out this spring, contains similar questions to the walnut survey. Knowing who is involved in making the pest management decisions—whether it’s the grower or pest management advisor—will help the project’s scientists know where to focus their outreach efforts, Goldberger said.
A question was added to the pear survey asking growers if they use computers and smartphones for their business and how they prefer to receive information—via printed materials, live meetings, workshops, field days, one-on-one consultations, Internet, e-mail, online workshops, or social media.
“We’re really trying to understand where people are getting their information and who they are turning to for pest management information,” Goldberg said.
Although the survey is voluntary, it’s important that growers fill it out so that the results truly reflect the experiences of all Oregon and Washington pear growers, she added. The survey can be completed on paper or online. As well as answering specific questions, respondents can include comments relating to biological control.
“That’s a great way to have your voice heard, and we take those statements very seriously,” Goldberg said. “That helps us understand growers’ perspectives of these practices, as well as the barriers to adopting these practices.”
Project scientists are also seeking input from consultants through instant surveys at industry meetings. “We realize that’s an important piece of understanding biocontrol adoption,” she said. “It’s not just the growers but the consultants they work with.”
Results of the pear survey will be compiled this summer. A survey will go out to apple growers in Washington and possibly Oregon next year.