The best example I can think of on how successfully Integrated Pest Management (IPM) works is to point to Asian Soybean Rust, a deadly disease that, left unchecked, can decimate a soybean field. The only known control is timely fungicide spraying.
It almost seems like old news now, but five years ago the threat of rust spread a wave of near panic across farm country.
One huge safety net to calm the fears farmers were facing was the IPM infrastructure, already in place throughout the land-grant university system. Trained professionals, skilled at detecting pests and identifying threshold levels, were at the helm.
Today, that infrastructure is in trouble of surviving.
SOMEHOW, IN THE LATE stages of the farm bill, a last-minute amendment was added that threatens the existence of many Extension programs that support IPM. In fact, for the first time in the 30-year history of Extension IPM, funds will not be allocated to universities in each state on a proportional basis.
Instead, a limited number of grants will be awarded on a competitive basis by the secretary of agriculture. That means each state will write grant proposals and compete with other states to get the funding.
“This is very serious because it undermines the ability of the land-grant universities to work together and it puts the entire system at risk,” says Wendy Wintersteen, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences dean at Iowa State University.
“My biggest concern is that this will tear apart the IPM network across the country,” says Chris Boerboom, University of Wisconsin Extension weed scientist. “With soybean rust for instance, IPM training and the sentinel plot network saved millions of dollars in fungicide applications.”
Historically, the national network has been funded by the farm bill at an average of $135,000/state each year, or about $6.9 million, which supports seamless information sharing and knowledge transfer.
The change could be “catastrophic,” leaving entire regions without grower training and outreach needed to manage pests and weeds, says Lee Van Wychen, Weed Science Society of America (WSSA) science policy director.
WSSA has petitioned Congress to rescind this change that threatens Extension IPM programs throughout the U.S. They need your help and so do farmers across the country.
If you want to ensure continued success from IPM, please contact your senators and representatives and tell them to restore formula funding for the Extension IPM program (Section 7403 of the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008). It could mean the difference between having an experienced IPM professional on deck, scouting for pests — or not.