Alabama IPM Communicator, 2013 Friends of IPM Award Winner
Pulling Together

Ayanava MajumdarGrowers in Alabama have been using IPM more efficiently, with the help of recommendations in an Extension newsletter called the Alabama IPM Communicator. The newsletter has been one of the driving factors for the statewide vegetable IPM campaign with tremendous impacts.

The editorial staff of the Communicator, consisting of Extension specialists from Auburn University, Tuskegee University and Alabama A&M University received the Friends of Southern IPM Pulling Together award at the Southeastern Branch of the Entomological Society of America on March 5, a prime example of collaboration between 1862 and 1890 institutions.

The Alabama IPM Communicator began in April 2010 as a series of timely information factsheets and a component of a larger communications project called IPM-CORE (IPM COmmunication REsources), funded by an Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries Specialty Crops Grant. However, with new research projects underway and expansion of the IPM projects, producers needed continuous updates, resulting in the development of an IPM newsletter. The Communicator is now sustained by funding from the state IPM coordinator budget, the Southern SARE Program, Organic Agriculture Research and Education Initiative grants, and the Wallace Center. The Alabama Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association and pesticide industry also support this one-of-a-kind resource. 

The newsletters are in PDF format, archived in the Alabama Cooperative Service online store (https://store.aces.edu/ListItems.aspx?CategoryID=180). Most issues are presented on the web page with a short blurb and a link to the PDF file. Social media channels were added to the overall communication strategy in 2011 and now links to each issue are shared with internet-savvy clientele.

Ideas for an online newsletter began when Extension specialists from Auburn University wanted a way to inform growers about IPM research findings and to communicate IPM recommendations in a way that would be timelier than periodic grower workshops. The newsletter began as a downloadable PDF file available on the Alabama Vegetable IPM website. However, as more farmers discovered the newsletter and started downloading it en masse, the IPM website could not keep up with the volume of visitors and routinely crashed during the growing season. The newsletter, therefore, moved to the Alabama Cooperative Education Service online store, available as a free download but housed on a more robust server.

Due to the wide range of IPM articles, today there are approximately 1,373 subscribers to the newsletter in addition to over 100 Extension personnel and 300 Master Gardeners. Major audience consists of 60% farmers, 10% crop advisors, and 10% industry representatives. A survey conducted in 2012 indicated that most readers use the newsletter for information pertinent to their interests. Articles from the Communicator have appeared in several grower newspapers and magazines. Because of the demand from specialty crop producers for information, the Communicator also provides information for organic, transitioning and small-acreage farming throughout the region.

Survey results indicate that growers are heeding the recommendations in the Communicator. In 2012, growers indicated that they had saved 50 percent or more of their crop through recommendations in the newsletter and through Extension training events that they had learned about through the newsletter. Profits for commercial fruit and vegetable farms increased by over $100 per acre based on newsletter recommendations, translating to nearly $3.6 million for the specialty crop industry. Farmers on small acreage farms saved between $343 and $591 by using IPM recommendations in the newsletter.

The team was one of three Friends of Southern IPM award winners to receive their award at the Southeastern Branch meeting in March.

Alabama IPM Communicator Editorial Staff

Auburn University:
Dr. Ayanava Majumdar
Dr. Henry Fadamiro
Dr. Kathy Flanders
Dr. Timothy Reed
Dr. Ronald Smith
Dr. Elina Coneva
Dr. Edward Sikora
Dr. Austin Hagan
Dr. Xing Ping Hu

Alabama A&M University:
Dr. Cathy Sabota

Tuskegee University:
Dr. Conrad Bonsi
Dr. Franklin Quarcoo