Train-the-Trainer Program Multiplies Reach of IPM Knowledge
Cooperative extension programs are a critical conduit in the United States for getting the knowledge gained from research into the hands of farmers, growers, land managers, and homeowners who can use it. And to meet the demand for that service, extension programs must continually seek ways to operate more efficiently and effectively.
In recent years, a collaborative effort among extension stakeholders in Missouri sought to increase the effectiveness of integrated pest management (IPM) outreach and technology transfer to growers via a series of “train the trainer” programs. Extension professionals from across the state participated in in-depth, two-day workshops on various IPM topics. In a new report in the open-access Journal of Integrated Pest Management, the organizers say the program has shown a valuable “multiplier effect” in spreading IPM knowledge.
“I believe this was a win-win situation, especially at times when the Cooperative Extension System continues to receive decreased funding to accomplish its core mission” says Jaime Piñero, Ph.D., lead author on the report and former associate professor and state IPM specialist at Lincoln University in Missouri. (Piñero has recently moved to a role at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.) “For instance, after the IPM workshops, extension educators became better able to make more informed IPM recommendations to growers and members of the public, and growers benefited from the new IPM information that they received from the trainees.”
Indeed, Piñero and colleagues found that 127 extension educators who participated in the train-the-trainer programs reported sharing IPM guidance with 3,554 farmers within the 10 months after trainings. That’s a nearly 30-fold expansion of the reach of that knowledge, and the total volume of farmers reached is likely much higher—because, as Piñero and colleagues note, the 127 extension educators who responded to post-workshop surveys represent just a little over half of the total extension educators trained in the workshops.
The train-the-trainer workshops were organized through partnerships among the extension programs at Lincoln University and the University of Missouri as well as the Missouri Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program and the Missouri Department of Agriculture. Six workshops were conducted from 2011 to 2015, each with about 14 hours of training over two days. Each workshop covered a different specialized topic within IPM based on advance surveys and input from the participants. Each workshop cost about $12,000 to operate, which included travel expenses for trainers and trainees as well as educational materials and hands-on, on-site demonstrations. Most of the funding stemmed from the Missouri SARE program.
Piñero and fellow organizers conducted surveys both immediately after each workshop (to measure increase in knowledge among participants) and 10 months later (to measure mid-term impacts; i.e., how the knowledge was being disseminated).
Their findings also showed that 88 percent of extension educators who participated in the workshops said they provided IPM advice during farm visits or one-on-one interactions with clients. Meanwhile, 63 percent reported incorporating the new IPM knowledge into their regular extension programming, and 30 percent reported sharing that IPM knowledge via newsletter articles, newspaper columns, or radio shows.
“Our results emphasize the collaborative efforts that the two land-grant universities in Missouri are taking to train extension educators and agriculture professionals within and outside Missouri in necessary IPM skills,” Piñero says. “Partnerships such as the one reported here have led to important synergisms that have benefited thousands of farmers.”
Journal of Integrated Pest Management