Our Farms, Our Future conference this April features cover crop and soil health content

The the once-in-a-decade Our Farms, Our Future conference will be hosted by SARE and NCAT/ATTRA in St. Louis on April 3-5. This unique event will bring people together to have important conversations about the future of sustainable agriculture. Hundreds of people will be present, including farmers, ranchers, graduate students, researchers, NGO representatives, agency representatives and agribusiness professionals.

There will be plenty of soil health related content to keep you busy. On Tuesday (April 3rd), the Building Soil Health with Cover Crops and Other Strategies breakout track will feature presentations by 11 soil health experts, including farmers, researchers and USDA agency employees. On Wednesday (April 4th), the breakout sessions are issue-focused with almost half of the time in each breakout session devoted to discussion of important issues, many of which intersect with soil health like water challenges, farming and ranching in a changing climate and the intersection of economics and the environment, among others.

And, on Thursday (April 5th), the Soil Health Stewards farm tour will explore how farmers and researchers are working to steward soil health with cover crops, no-till management and other strategies in the St. Louis area. As the website says, “it’s one thing to read about the soil health craze that’s captured the nation, and quite another to visit the farms and research institutions where soil health practices are being put into action. If you’re excited about soil health and ready to learn more, this tour is for you.

The early bird registration deadline for the conference is this Thursday, February 22nd (that’s in TWO days!), after which prices will substantially increase for all attendee types. We offer discounted farmer and graduate student rates.

Additionally, there will be soil health and cover crop organizations present as exhibitors at the conference. The deadline for exhibitor registration is March 27, but space is limited to only 40 organizations so you will want to reserve your spot as soon as you can!

Updated Sweet Corn Crop Profile available

A new Crop Profile for Sweet Corn in Canada, 2015 is available free to download from the Government of Canada Publications web site or through the Sweet Corn crop profile webpage.

There are thirty-two Crop Profiles covering 38 crops created and maintained by the Pesticide Risk Reduction Program that are accessible for download on the Government of Canada Publications web site.

Links to the most up-to-date versions of all available Crop Profiles are provided in the attached reference document, for your convenience.

New AgriLife Extension statewide cotton pest management guide is now available

Entomologists with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service have just released a new statewide guide on managing cotton insect pests, said one of its authors.

Dr. Suhas Vyavhare, AgriLife Extension cotton entomologist at Lubbock, said The Cotton Insect Management Guide can be accessed online at or can be downloaded free from the AgriLife Extension bookstore at .

“The new 42-page guide has all updated information along with a plethora of excellent pictures,” Vyavhare said. “It’s an excellent all-around resource for cotton growers throughout Texas.”

Vyavhare said the publication objectives are to describe the various economically damaging arthropod pests of cotton in Texas, including their associated damage to crop growth stages, then to describe the various sampling methods for these pests, and finally, to list the action thresholds and management tools for controlling each pest.

“The guide comes complete with updated information on Bt traits available on the market, their relative efficacy, and the list of suggested insecticides for each pest,” Vyavhare said. “It’s the most up-to-date, objective and comprehensive guide now available to Texas cotton farmers.”

For more information, contact Vyavhare at 806-746-6101,  or any AgriLife Extension entomologist or integrated pest management agent.

9th International IPM Symposium Concurrent Sessions Announced

Learn the latest about Invasive insects, biological controls, and other topics at the 9th International Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Symposium, March 19-22, 2018 at the Renaissance Baltimore Harborplace Hotel in Baltimore, Maryland USA. Those who register by February 19 will pay a reduced price.

Check here for a list of more than 40 concurrent sessions to be presented during the Symposium.

Other highlights include:

  • Presentations specifically designed for practitioners of IPM in agriculture and community settings
  • Latest information on Integrated Tick Management
  • Mini-symposia featuring experts addressing hot topics in the IPM field
  • CCA credits available – 25 CCA CEUs in IPM category, 5 CCA CEUs in the professional development category
  • Over 170 poster presentations of research and best practices
  • Field trips to see IPM in action in downtown Baltimore
  • Exhibits from leading IPM suppliers
  • Post-symposium workshop on evaluation IPM programs

Register by February 19 and take advantage of the early bird price of $375. The registration fee includes admission to all symposium sessions, Wednesday poster session reception, three continental breakfasts, and refreshment breaks. Fees will increase after February 19. For registration visit

Accommodation information can be found on the website: The room block is released February 19; don’t miss out on staying at the symposium hotel, Renaissance Baltimore Harborplace Hotel, 202 East Pratt Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21202 USA.


Please share this reminder with your colleagues.

Contact Michelle Marquart, Symposium Coordinator to learn more about the Symposium.

School District Creates a Healthier Environment by Adopting IPM

Every day, nearly 7,000 students come to the Maricopa Unified School District’s six elementary schools, two middle schools and one high school outside Phoenix, Arizona. They’re joined on the campuses by more than 800 teachers and other employees.

Today, every one of those people comes to schools that are healthier to learn in and teach in because the district embraced integrated pest management.

“Our school board, administration and staff support the IPM program and our budgeting supports this program,” explained Aron Rausch, the district’s director of business services who oversees operations. “We’ve changed the way the schools manage pests and significantly reduced pesticide use in the district’s classrooms, lunch rooms, playgrounds and sports fields.”

In fact, in 2017 Maricopa Unified was awarded IPM Star Certification by the IPM Institute of North America and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for “exceeding a rigorous standard for integrated pest management.”

Here’s how it happened.

Training, but Questions

Maricopa’s path to IPM stardom began a few years ago when the district’s environmental specialist Dan Vezie got his pesticide applicator’s license so the district wouldn’t have to use outside contractors all the time.

He got the license, but felt he was only trained in the mechanics of how to spray. He didn’t know what to spray, or why to spray or, most importantly, when and when not to spray.

“I’d dealt with the University of Arizona Extension Center in the past, so I went down there,” he said. “I didn’t know anything about IPM, and I think that was a good thing. I didn’t have any bad habits or preconceived notions.”

Through the extension program, Vezie connected with community IPM specialists Dawn Gouge and Shaku Nair, who became his and the district’s guides to a new way of thinking about pests and pest management.

“Before this, we had a pest-management company and they would come out once a month and ask the secretaries what they’d seen on campus, ants or whatever, and then they’d spray,” Vezie said. “I don’t even know what they sprayed, but they’d come spray once a month.”

That was the first change.

“We stopped being on a spray schedule,” he said, “and fired the pest company.”

The maintenance and grounds staff began managing pests other ways. They installed door sweeps and trimmed vegetation away from the buildings. Where bees would get into irrigation valve boxes seeking water, they’d seal the holes with expanding foam. They installed one-way sink valves called drain traps to keep cockroaches out, and began an ongoing – and still ongoing – education effort to teach teachers to keep their classrooms clean and that not every bug needs to be killed, especially chemically.

“The first couple of years, the schools would call and want me to spray all the time,” Vezie said. “And I’d explain to them, ‘We don’t spray for spiders.’”

Instead, they vacuum up spiders and the occasional scorpion. They use environmentally safer alternatives like eucalyptus oil to treat insect pests. In fact, the only  powerful insecticide the school keeps and uses is a bait needed to treat dangerous fire ants. Everything else, they handle through exclusion and avoidance, deterrence and education.

“They called me to spray for ants in the teacher’s staff room once, and I got there and here was sugar on the counter,” Vezie said. “So you tell people, ‘You get rid of the sugar, you get rid of the ants.’”

The maintenance staff leaves notes for teachers who leave food out in their classrooms, and even wrote up little half-page pest management tips to give people when they want them to spray.

“They tell us to come and spray, and we come and look for the real problem,” Vezie said.

The philosophy extends outdoors as well, where Chad Whittle, the district’s grounds coordinator, applies IPM principles to managing the schools’ grounds, fields and sports facilities.

“For weeds, prefer mechanical and labor processes to herbicides,” Whittle said. “So we use a little Roundup and a lot of hula hoes.”

But it doesn’t mean the grounds suffer. The high school’s baseball field was recently recognized for its outstanding turf, winning the 2016 American Baseball Coaches Association Athletics Field Maintenance Award.

It takes time to make changes into habits, but for Maricopa Unified, the efforts are paying off.

When the school’s extension partners, Nair, Gouge and the University of Arizona community IPM team, wanted to conduct a training for other schools, they got Maricopa to host it so other districts could learn from its example. Maricopa made such a transformation, Nair suggested the district apply for IPM Star Certification.

“They were doing all this great work already,” she said. “One of the major items that was missing was a formal IPM policy, so we helped them put one together. It was approved by the board and IPM is now official district policy and is published on their website.”

What started with one person’s questions blossomed into a district-wide commitment, and there’s a plaque outside the Maricopa Unified School District board room, celebrating the accomplishment.

“This is an entire team effort at the Maricopa Unified School District,” Rausch said. “And we’re proud of it.”

Learn more about IPM Star Certification