Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Why Entomology Students Should Get Active in Education and Outreach

Entomology Today 1 Comment

Youth entomology education and outreach programs can offer participants unique opportunities to get up close and personal with insects and arthropods. Getting people excited about entomology and inspiring the next generation of entomologists are worthy goals on their own, but leading such programs can also be a valuable professional experience for any entomology student. One entomology Ph.D. student shares her experience and advice on getting involved in community education and outreach.

By Sara Salgado Astudillo

Editor’s Note: This post is part of a series contributed by the ESA Student Affairs Committee. See other posts by and for entomology students here at Entomology Today.

Sara Salgado Astudillo

Graduate students play an essential role in bridging the gap between the university and the local community through educational outreach programs. Emily Le Falchier is one such student, a dedicated and passionate entomology master’s student and lab manager in the Minteer Biological Control of Weeds Lab at the University of Florida’s Indian River Research and Education Center. Le Falchier has been making a significant impact by inspiring and guiding kids to explore the fascinating world of entomology.

By participating in science outreach activities for children, graduate students can not only exercise their communication skills and expand their own level of comprehension but also inspire the next generation of scientists, engineers, and mathematicians.

Meanwhile, exposing children to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) careers is critical for addressing the skills gap and promoting diversity and inclusion, enabling access to economic opportunities, solving global challenges, and developing critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Effective outreach strategies implemented by organizations and institutions can help create a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive society by introducing underrepresented groups to STEM careers and fostering an interest in science among all children.

Among other outreach activities, Le Falchier has taken a leading role in St. Lucie County 4-H Insectathon. Over the years, Le Falchier has developed a workshop series about insect collection, curation, and identification, to get her club members prepared to participate in the annual 4-H Insectathon. In this Q&A, Le Falchier shares her experience and advice for fellow entomology graduate students on getting involved in community education and outreach.

Salgado: What is the 4-H insectathon?

Le Falchier: The 4-H Insectathon is a statewide event where 4-H youths (ages 5-18) can demonstrate their knowledge of insects. There are several categories that 4-Hers can participate in: the insect collection contest, the insect art contest, and the insect identification “Entomology ID and Skillathon” contest. These contests give 4-Hers the opportunity to show off their insect-related skills in many different ways!

Emily Le Falchier is an entomology master’s student and lab manager in the Minteer Biological Control of Weeds Lab at the University of Florida’s Indian River Research and Education Center in Vero Beach, Florida. Her favorite insects are twig ants. Connect with her on Twitter at @elefalch. (Photo courtesy of Emily Le Falchier)

Why do you think outreach is important?

Outreach is important in so many different aspects. One reason I throw myself into outreach is because, as a child, I had no idea that entomologists even existed. I was never exposed to all the different STEM-related career paths, so I thought the only way I could really help people was through being a doctor. I was in my early twenties when I finally saw how much opportunity there was to help people (and the environment!) in other non-medical fields.

I feel like I got a late start on my career path, so I’ve made it my mission to show children how many amazing opportunities there are for them in STEM. Maybe they’ll be able to find their dream jobs sooner than I did. This is one way I try to give back to the community.

How did you decide to bring 4-H to this program?

I was in 4-H for many years until I graduated out of the program, so I’m familiar with the structure and mission of 4-H. My advisor, Dr. Carey Minteer, runs a research program that has an extension component to it, so creating this program was a natural fit for our lab. Beyond that, the Insectathon was already an established event in the 4-H program, so all that was missing was someone to be that “link” between local 4-H clubs and this awesome event.

What is the most rewarding experience of working with kids?

The most rewarding experience has been seeing kids return year after year and watching their love and knowledge of insects grow. I also love seeing parents’ interest in insects grow to support their children. My favorite stories are always about how a parent or child spots a really cool bug and hearing how they had to figure out a way to catch it, even if it meant sacrificing their cup of coffee (so they can use the cup) to do it!

What is the best advice you have for someone looking to start outreach activities?

For students and early-career professionals, I always suggest talking to your advisor or mentor first. They will very likely know what steps you need to take or who you should talk to. Beyond that will depend on what you want to do: What problem are you addressing? What do you hope to accomplish, and who is your target audience? From there, you can figure out how much time you’re willing to invest and what resources are available to you, find people interested in collaborating, and develop your methods or strategy.

How do you balance or integrate education and outreach activities with your student workload?

I consider outreach to be an integral part of my student workload partly because of my advisor’s extension appointment. But beyond that, it doesn’t feel like extra work. It’s really energizing to talk to people about what I’m studying and what my lab does and to see them get genuinely interested or excited about our work.

What value does education and outreach experience have for an entomology student’s own professional development, CV, career prospects, etc.?

I think education and outreach are incredibly important for students because you will learn how to convey scientific information to different audiences. The way you talk about your research to your academic peers will be vastly different than how you’d talk about your work to children. When going to events, I always think about who my audience is and why they are there and tailor my message or highlight the areas of my work that would get them to care about what I do or see the importance of my work.

However, I think one of the most important skills that can be learned here is how to talk to people that don’t agree with or approve of your work. Working in classical biological control, we run into people all the time that assume we’re going to cause the next plague by introducing insects from other parts of the world. I’m happy to take the time to explain the process biological control agents go through to ensure they’re safe, and most of the time they’ll see that it is safe and support it. Other times, they’ll insist your insects are bad and you’ll have to accept that you can’t win everybody over.

Beyond looking good on your CV, this is a soft skill that can be taken with you no matter where you go after graduation, whether it’s academia or industry.

What are the keys to effectively working with kids in entomology outreach programs?

Before working with children (and having one of my own) I was uncomfortable with the idea of trying to teach them! I think the best way to start is to capture their attention. I like bringing my insect collection with me as show-and-tell because they can look at these bugs without fear of getting bitten, stung, or anything like that.

I ask what their favorite and least favorite insects are and normally follow that up with some fun or gross facts—like about how robber flies catch their prey midair, inject them with saliva, and drink the resulting liquid meal. The reactions are priceless, but it’s a great icebreaker and get the kids excited about how cool insects can be!

As Emily Le Falchier continues to inspire and educate through outreach programs, her passion for promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in STEM fields serves as a beacon of hope for a more inclusive and brighter future for aspiring scientists of all backgrounds.

Sara Salgado Astudillo is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Entomology and Nematology at the University of Florida and current Southeastern Branch representative to the Entomological Society of America Student Affairs Committee. Email: sara.salgadoast@ufl.edu.

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February 22, 2023 

Stefan Toepfer 

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Plantwise training materials for plant doctors now available in 11 languages

Plantwise training materials, given to extension workers so they can help smallholder farmers lose less of their crop to pests and diseases, are now available in 11 languages – writes Dr Stefan Toepfer, Research Scientist Arthropod Biological Control; Integrated Crop Management Advisor at CABI.

The aim of Plantwise is to increase food security and to improve rural livelihoods by reducing crop losses. This is achieved by establishing sustainable networks of local plant clinics, run by trained plant doctors, where farmers receive practical plant health advice.

In order to maximise global outreach, and local impact, trainings in local languages are essential. Computer translation is possible, but unreliable with technical terms and the local phrases of a country. Therefore, CABI is promoting translations of training materials together with local plant protection and educational experts.

More languages available

The training which features field diagnosis and management advice, is now available in English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Chinese, Dari, Khmer, Vietnamese, Uzbek, Kirundi and Arabic.

The recent addition of Arabic is a huge step forward broadening the audience of the Plantwise training materials. It also helps other international development initiatives and projects such as ‘Strengthening the potato value chain in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.’

It has been shown that better diagnosis of plant health problems leads to better pest management advice and, subsequently, better pest management on a farm. This improves crop production and rural livelihoods and reduces risks to farmers, consumers and the environment.

Core training

The core training needed to become a Plantwise plant doctor are Module 1 on field diagnosis and plant clinic operations and Module 2 on providing good management advice to farmers. They are aimed at reinforcing and strengthening the existing skills of agricultural extensions workers.

Local capacity is also enhanced through training on writing and delivering extension messages – such as pest management decision guides or plant health rallies. Training on use of data, quality assurance and gender are also provided.

Whilst the training focusses on the general principles there is also specific training when invasive species are concerned such as diagnosis and management of invasive pests such as the fall armyworm.

Min Wan (CABI) delivers Plantwise training to local plant doctors in Chinese (Photo: S. Toepfer).

Since its launch in 2011, Plantwise has worked in 35 countries in Africa, Asia and the Americas.

Success and impact

Dr Stefan Toepfer, one of CABI’s master trainers, said “Although trainings of national trainers by CABI experts can usually be implemented in English, those national trainers can often only train a larger number of local trainers and subsequently many plant doctors in local languages. Thus, the use of local languages is essential to assure success, as well as the upscaling of success and impact.”

Ultimately, Plantwise is strengthening national plant health systems from within, enabling countries to provide farmers with the knowledge they need to increase their yields.

Pest diagnosis training delivered to local extension workers of Kurdistan Iraq in Kurdish with training materials in Arabic, and backstopped in English by master trainers of CABI (Photo: S. Toepfer).

Additional information

Main image: APlantwise trainer delivers training on pest diagnosis to local extension workers of Burundi in Kirundi and French (Photo: S. Toepfer).

Find out more about the Plantwise programme at www.plantwise.org

See other relevant articles from the Plantwise Blog.

Relevant books

Plantwise Diagnostic Field Guide

Listening to the Silent Patient: Uganda’s journey towards institutionalizing inclusive plant health services

Dr Stefan ToepferPlantwiseplant doctors

Agriculture and International Development

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If you are active in the field of plant health or development and would like to contribute to the Plantwise Blog, please contact Donna Hutchinson. We are happy to post any credible articles that we think would be of interest to our readership.

Views expressed in contributions do not necessarily reflect official CABI or Plantwise positions.

Tuta absoluta in the Americas12 December 2022

Jamaica’s plant doctors shine in Plantwise programme awards30 November 2022

PlantwisePlus Knowledge Bank joins the CABI Digital Library29 November 2022

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 Grahame Jackson


 Sydney NSW, Australia

 For your information


New film aims to educate community on wide ranging impacts of Myrtle rust

Mirage News

A new film showcasing the wide-ranging impacts of the tree fungus Myrtle rust across Australia’s native environment hopes to generate better community awareness about the disease.

Myrtle rust, which now affects more than 380 Australian native species, is having significant cultural, social and ecological effects on Australia’s native environment – with at least 16 species predicted to become extinct within a generation.

The film has been produced through a combined NSW, Queensland and Commonwealth government-funded initiative, and draws on stories of Indigenous rangers, scientists and landowners’ experiences about the disease’s impact on our precious species and landscapes.

NSW DPI Forestry’s Leader Forest Health and Biosecurity, Dr Angus Carnegie, said the film’s important message included the work carried out to date to future proof vital ecosystems.

“So much effort has gone into managing this destructive disease, and by educating the community, they too can play a part in our control efforts,” he said.

“In the film we learn about efforts to bring species back from the brink of extinction and the value of protecting our unique ecosystems from biosecurity threats for generations to come.

“Time is very short for some species that are severely impacted by Myrtle rust, but there are meaningful conservation actions that can still be taken.

Dr Carnegie said the impacts of myrtle rust on Indigenous Communities are broader than just ecological and industry values as Country, Culture and Community are all connected.

He said global interconnectedness is increasing the risk of new threats to Australia’s irreplaceable biological heritage – exotic plant and animal diseases to which native Australian biota may have no adaptive resistance.

“Some of these diseases are broad-spectrum, affecting many native species.

“Myrtle rust is a threat of this type. This plant disease, caused by an introduced fungal pathogen, affects plant species in the Myrtle family (Myrtaceae), which includes paperbarks, tea trees, eucalypts, and lillypillies. These are key, and often dominant, species in many Australian ecosystems.”

People interested in seeing the film, which was launched nationally this week can see the trailer here, and the full film here here.

Partners in the film initiative include: NSW Department of Primary Industries, NSW Department of Planning and Environment (Saving Our Species), Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Australian Network for Plant Conservation, Plant Biosecurity Science Foundation, Butchulla Land and Sea Ranger, San Diego Zoo, and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.


  • Myrtle rust, caused by the exotic fungus Austropuccinia psidii, is native to South America. It was first detected in Australia in April 2010 in NSW, spreading rapidly to other parts of Australia.
  • The disease affects plant species in the family Myrtaceae and attacks new growth, with symptoms developing quickly on new shoots, and young leaves and stems.
  • Myrtle rust is already affecting more than 380 Australian species, with sixteen species predicted to become extinct within a generation and many more are in decline.
  • A National Action Plan for Myrtle Rust in Australia identifies the priority research and actions needed to tackle the environmental impacts of the pathogen

/Public Release. This material from the originating organization/author(s) may be of a point-in-time nature, edited for clarity, style and length. The views and opinions expressed are those of the author(s).View in full here.



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US (IA): Commercial ag weed, insect, plant disease course organized

Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Washington County will host a Commercial Ag Weed, Insect, and Plant Disease Pest Control Management Continuing Instruction Course (CIC) for commercial pesticide applicators Wednesday, November 16, 2022. The program, provided by the ISU Extension and Outreach Pesticide Safety Education Program (PSEP), is available at office locations across Iowa.

The local attendance site is Washington County Extension Building. Pre-registration is required, and walk-ins on the day of the program will only be admitted if the space allows it. The course runs from 9:00 to 11:30 a.m. The registration fee is $35 on or before November 9 and $45 after November 9. To register or to obtain additional information about the CIC, contact Brandi Dawson at the ISU Extension and Outreach Washington County office at 319-653-4811.

The course will provide continuing instruction credit for commercial pesticide applicators certified in categories 1A, 1B, and 1C. Topics covered will include pesticide use and the environment, pesticide labels and comprehension, including restricted entry interval and preharvest interval, and pest management topics.

Certified Crop Adviser (CCA) Continuing Education Units (CEUs) will be offered in this program. Interested participants should bring their CCA number.

Additional information and registration forms for this and other courses offered by the PSEP program can be accessed at http://www.extension.iastate.edu/PSEP

Pre-registration at https://go.iastate.edu/LAJDBZ

Publication date: Fri 4 Nov 2022

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Diversity in Career Paths: A Q&A With Five Entomologists

Entomology Today Oct 24 What jobs can we do as entomologists? More than you might think. For students looking ahead at potential career paths, learn from this Q&A with five entomologists working in a wide range of positions, from biotechnology to tourism and more. Read more of this post

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Announcing the Soybean Rust Crash Course Relaunch!
August 11, 2022       Looking to learn more about rust, one of the most economically important soybean diseases? Enroll on Tuesday, August 16th for SIL’s updated Soybean Rust Crash Course! The course was created by Dr. Vitor Rampazzo Favoretto, SIL’s Disease and Pest Team Coordinator, in partnership with Dr. Maria Laura Malvino, SIL’s former Disease Program Coordinator. As part of SIL-University, you can learn about soybean rust identification, scouting, and management in this free, self-paced, and certificate-based online course. Enrollment for the Soybean Rust Crash Course opens on Tuesday, August 16th, but you can register as a student at SIL-University at any time to access a variety of free courses, including the Soybean Rust Crash Course, by visiting https://soybeaninnovationlab.getlearnworlds.com/.   Soybean rust can lead to near-total yield losses when not managed properly. Photo: Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR), SMART Farm (Jimma), 2020.     Soybean rust can be identified by its characteristic reddish-brown spores. Photo: Dr. Harun Murithi, Plant Pathologist

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September 2, 2022 

Donna Hutchinson 

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Why multi-channel agricultural extension works for fighting crop pests

Addressing fall armyworm in Eastern Rwanda

A farmer in a maize field in Nyagatare, in Rwanda's Eastern Province.
A farmer in a maize field in Nyagatare, in Rwanda’s Eastern Province (Image: Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, Flickr)

We might often have a sense that if taking one course of action works, then doing more of it should amplify that work. It turns out this really is the case regarding agricultural extension.

PlantwisePlus-funded study has discovered the benefits of ‘multi-channel agricultural extension’. The research focused on smallholder farmers in Eastern Rwanda. It concentrated on how they receive information about the fall armyworm crop pest, Spodoptera frugiperda, via extension.

An interesting discovery in multi-channel agricultural extension

The study revealed an interesting discovery. Receiving messages through any extension channel could yield a 7% increase in knowledge about the pest. However, receiving messages through three channels could yield up to a 23% increase in knowledge. Furthermore, the study surveyed 720 smallholders and found they increased their maize yield between 10% and 34%, depending on the channel.

The study was led by CABI’s Dr Justice Tambo. It included colleagues from the Rwanda Agriculture and Animal Resources Development Board (RAB).

The problem – addressing fall armyworm in Eastern Rwanda

Across Africa, fall armyworm is a big problem. It was first discovered in Rwanda in February 2017. It took only two months for this crop pest to spread to all 30 of the country’s districts. It still causes severe damage to maize crops. And it impacts food insecurity and economic losses.

The fall armyworm threat is significant. Unmanaged, this pest could cause yearly maize production losses of up to USD 4.66 billion. This is in Africa’s 12 maize-producing countries. Smallholders’ go-to’ for addressing the pest has been chemical pesticides.

However, PlantwisePlus has been sharing environmentally friendly and safer ways to manage fall armyworm. Multi-channel agricultural extension has been a critical way of sharing knowledge. This is especially true for smallholder maize farmers. Delivery through various channels has been an important part of the campaigns.

Multi-channel agricultural extension – what are the channels?

The study, published in Food and Energy Security, identifies three extension channels. These include digital extension, plant health rallies and radio dramas.

Over the past 10 years, digital extension has become more popular. And since 2020, the pandemic has only reinforced this trend. Reaching farmers with SMS-based knowledge is essential when face-to-face meetings are not an option. There is no doubt that digital extension can deliver agricultural know-how. It can do this cost-effectively and quickly for smallholder farmers.

However, the report reveals that more significant benefits can be reaped. This is if digital extension is combined with other low-cost, face-to-face extension methods. These include plant health rallies. This is a meeting of extensionists and farmers in a place where farmers come together. It might be in a marketplace, for example. Extensionists hold a meeting or ‘rally’ to answer farmers’ plant health questions.

But combine with this another channel of plant health knowledge – radio dramas. Now you have something even more effective. The dramatizations are like radio plays. They include agricultural knowledge and subtle life lessons that smallholder farmers can adopt. Radio dramas are the most common way that farmers receive fall armyworm knowledge. They are an easy, and entertaining, channel. And they reach into farmers’ communities and homes.

Mixing it up – the multi-channel agricultural extension approach

Dr Tambo and the team found that each channel is effective. But a synergy is created when all three are combined. Multi-channel agricultural extension reveals a number of benefits. Receiving information from different channels helped smallholders identify fall armyworm. And it enabled them to use more environmentally friendly pest management methods.

“Households exposed to the information channels were significantly more likely to regularly monitor their maize fields for fall armyworm, and adopt cultural, chemical, mechanical measures for fall armyworm control than those who did not receive the fall armyworm information,” said Dr Tambo.

“The positive effects of the campaign are statistically significant only when the field-based extension method is combined with digital extension approaches. Moreover, we found that the effects are greater for households that were exposed to all the three channels, suggesting complementary effects of the channels.”

Looking beyond multi-channel agricultural extension

The scientists are now looking beyond fall armyworm management. They want to examine whether multi-channel agricultural extension can also help to promote safe pesticide use. This would mark another step along the journey to enabling smallholder farmers to better manage pests.

Read the full report here.

Full paper reference: Tambo, J. A., Uzayisenga, B., Mugambi, I., Onyango, D. O., & Romney, D. (2022). Sustainable management of fall armyworm in smallholder farming: The role of a multi-channel information campaign in Rwanda. Food and Energy Security, 00, e414. DOI: 10.1002/fes3.414

Read more

Free CABI Academy eLearning courses for extension providers available in Rwanda

Plant clinics improve food security in Rwanda, says new study

Reducing extreme poverty in Rwanda thanks to CABI-led Plantwise plant clinics

Fall armywormRwandaextension

Development communication and extension

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June 8, 2022 

Laura Hollis 

No Comments

Apply now for an online course on Integrated Crop Management

Applications for two new Certificate of Advanced Studies (CAS) in Integrated Crop Management (ICM) are now open. CAS 2: ICM – Aspects of Implementation and CAS 3: ICM –  Biological Control and Ecosystem Services, are the latest courses launched as part of a set of online programmes developed and run by CABI and the University of Neuchâtel in collaboration with partner institutions in Switzerland.

The first programme, CAS 1: ICM – Sustainable Production Practices, was launched last September and is currently running with a cohort of 22 students from 14 countries across Asia, Africa and the Americas.

What is ICM?

ICM is a sustainable agricultural production system that improves overall crop health with minimal impact on the environment. It optimizes yield and profitability and takes into consideration pest management, soil care, seed selection, crop nutrition, water management, rural economics, landscape management, agricultural policy and more. ICM is an important part of sustainable agriculture and these courses promote the adoption of sound crop management principles.

Who are the CAS-ICM programmes for?

Both the CAS 2 and CAS 3 programmes are valuable for scientists, teachers, extension officers, policy makers and post-graduate students who already possess a Bachelor’s degree or at least three years of relevant professional experience in a related field and wish to enrich their ICM knowledge. The topics addressed in this online course are of global relevance and candidates are welcome from any country.

For both courses, learning is based on the proven content and approaches from previous educational activities and professional experience from the past several years.

The educational experience gained from these will facilitate the acquisition of positions in both the public and private sectors, including government, research, universities, advisory services, NGOs and industry.

CAS 2: ICM – Aspects of Implementation

CAS 2 will facilitate exchange between international participants as they explore diverse considerations that are important – but not always obvious – in the field of ICM implementation. This programme addresses implementation issues that are crucial for the successful adoption of ICM practices by farming communities and for sustainable food production.

The programme is structured around seven modules:

Topic 1Topic 2Topic 3Topic 4
Policy considerationsAgricultural
Agricultural and
Rural Economics
Topic 5Topic 6Topic 7
Gender in Agriculture
Programmes & Rural
Advisory Services
Experimental Design &
Statistical Methods
Climate Change &
Agriculture: Towards
Climate-Smart Pest

CAS 2 participants will enhance their ability to address critical agricultural issues, in particular recognising and dealing with obstacles and opportunities for ICM adoption in a wide variety of agricultural systems.

The CAS 2 programme is a post-graduate course that counts 10 credit points under the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS).

CAS 3 –Biological Control and Ecosystem Services

This programme takes a close look at ways to apply science-based practices that enhance, rather than degrade, ecosystem services that are crucial for healthy and productive agroecosystems. This learning journey includes a major emphasis on practices that promote biological control of plant pests while protecting vital species like pollinators.

The programme is structured around four modules:

Topic 1Topic 2Topic 3Topic 4
Prevention of Pest ProblemsGreen Direct ControlClassical Biological ControlManaging Landscapes

CAS 3 participants will acquire a broader and deeper understanding of the options available to minimise the use of chemical pesticides, promote biodiversity and create more resilient agroecosystems. Participants’ enhanced capacity to analyse interactions of beneficial species (e.g. natural enemies, pollinators) in agricultural landscapes will better prepare them for promoting nature-based solutions in various agricultural systems.

The CAS 3 programme is a post-graduate course that counts 10 credit points under the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS).

How are the courses run?

The CAS 2: ICM – Aspects of Implementation and CAS 3: ICM –  Biological Control and Ecosystem Services programmes are fully online and will run from September 2022 to June 2023.

Participants who successfully finish all three CAS programes can obtain a Diploma of Advanced Studies (DAS) on completion of an additional technical report.

How do I apply?

For more information on the programme and how to apply, please visit the University of Neuchâtel website.

The deadline for applications is 10th July 2022.

CAS ICMOnline coursecourse

Development communication and extension

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Horticulture Week Podcast: the wonders of biocontrols and integrated pest management with IPS’s Dr Sam Jones

28 January 2022,

Sam Jones and Matthew Appleby
Sam Jones and Matthew Appleby


International pheromone systems’ Dr Sam Jones is an expert in the use of pheromones for biocontrol.

He is an entomologist with a keen interest in insect taxonomy, chemical ecology and behaviour and uses his knowledge of chemistry and insect behaviour to develop new and improved products for the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) market. 

Dr Jones talks explains how biocontrols work, the use of pheromones and semiochemicals, attracting beneficial insects and how an ecological balance is maintained.

He reveals novel solutions he is working on, including the use of sound on apple codling moths, work to address emerging pests, and smart traps.

Recently, the World BioProtection Forum and 30 industry organisations (including HortWeek) co-signed an open letter to the UK’s Health & Safety Executive regulators to urgently review and reform the process for new bioprotection products in the UK (micro-organisms, semiochemicals and botanicals). Dr Jones speaks about the issues that have prompted this move and why he thinks it matters.

He also reveals how he maximises the variety of plant and animal species in his own garden and reveals his own Desert Island Plant. 

Podcast presenter: HW editor Matthew Appleby
Producer: HW digital content manager, Christina Taylor

Make sure you never miss a Horticulture Week podcast! Subscribe to or Follow Horticulture Week podcasts via Apple PodcastsSpotify or Google Podcasts or your preferred podcast platform. 

If you are interested in producing a podcast with Horticulture Week, contact matthew.appleby@haymarket.com. 

Listener feedback – please email hortweek@haymarket.com with “Podcast” at the beginning of the subject line.


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Digital Engagement and Training Helps Increase Agro-Dealer and Farmer Knowledge on Integrated Pest Management in East Africa

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Integrated Pest Management Innovation Lab

Aug 19, 2021

A group of people training with the Tanzanian Agricultural Research Institute (TARI)

This post is written by Sara Hendery, communications coordinator for the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Integrated Pest Management

Given Tanzania’s diverse geographical landscape, it’s no surprise the country is among the world’s top 20 producers of vegetables. Nevertheless, farmers remain in search of ways to combat the pests and diseases that threaten crop yields every season.

Results of a survey conducted by Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Integrated Pest Management partners at the Tanzanian Agricultural Research Institute (TARI) show that the majority of Tanzanian farmers receive key knowledge on how to manage pests and disease not only from extension personnel, but often from agricultural supply dealers, or agro-dealers. While agro-dealers do carry valuable information, resources and inputs, the survey also shows that many agro-dealers have limited formal knowledge on vegetable production or protective measures for applying chemical pesticides.

To address these gaps, TARI began providing cohesive training to agro-dealers, farmers and extension officers on vegetable production and pest and disease management. Training covers such areas as Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs), Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and safe handling and use of agricultural inputs, including pesticides. Thus far, 500 participants have been trained in the Coast and Morogoro regions. The GAP training in particular helps farmers build capacity in reporting and record-keeping, assessing input quality and crop hygiene, and training in IPM provides information on bio- and botanical pesticides, pruning, developing seedlings in a nursery environment and how to apply pesticides with minimal body exposure.   

“Knowing that farmers receive their pest and disease management knowledge from agro-dealers provides us important insight into how to best reach farmers with up-to-date information,” said Dr. Fred Tairo, principal agricultural research officer at TARI-Mikocheni. “If we want farmers to adopt sustainable, climate-smart and productive inputs that might be outside of their typical use, an important pathway to reaching them is through the people that farmers already trust and are familiar with.” 

In a group of 69 agro-dealers surveyed, only 49 were registered and licensed to run agricultural shops. The 20 unregistered participants had received no formal training in crop production or pesticide safety and use, and most participants not only had no prior knowledge on how to dispose of expired pesticides, but did not sell bio-pesticides or chemical pesticide alternatives at their shops. Since registering as an agro-dealer can cost nearly $200, TARI is collaborating with the Tropical Pesticides Research Institute (TPRI), a regulatory authority for pesticides in Tanzania, to consider lowering the costs.  

TARI and the IPM Innovation Lab are increasing communication through digital platforms to reach more agricultural actors with safe and effective approaches to pest and disease management. A Kiswahili-based (Swahili) WhatsApp group named “Kilima cha Mboga kisasa,” or modern vegetable cultivation, currently shares information with 154 farmers, extension agents and agro-dealers in Tanzania who can use the app to cite crop threats and receive expert management guidance in return.

Participants post a picture or video of the crop problem for immediate diagnosis. Not only do agro-dealers in the group directly learn about farmers’ most pressing problems, but they can use the platform to market agri-inputs, including the IPM products they learn about through the platform. 

“Even if members of this group do not necessarily follow up with formal training we offer, this is a low-stakes knowledge-sharing space that they can be a part of and receive guidance from,” Tairo added. 

To increase access to information and inputs, the IPM Innovation Lab is also collaborating with Real IPM, a private company based in Kenya that develops low-cost biological and holistic crop solutions available in Kenya and Tanzania. In just one year, the company has provided training to thousands of farmers in seven counties in Kenya by targeting farmer groups, the majority of which are made up of women. Real IPM has developed training manuals on IPM, a WhatsApp group for crop health assistance and a free web portal for diagnosis and IPM recommendations of specific crop threats. 

“Our goal is to make IPM solutions more accessible,” said Ruth Murunde, research and development manager at Real IPM. “When you enter a pest or disease into our web portal, those images, diagnosis and IPM recommendations stay posted. We know that many farmers are experiencing similar issues to one another and collective action against crop threats is an effective way to combat them more long-term.”

While technology constraints remain — including smartphone, internet and electricity access — making learning spaces available for a range of crop production actors is critical to adoption of sustainable, effective farming solutions. 

Currently, the Real IPM database hosts over 7,000 participants and has collected over 200 infected crop images.

“The Real IPM technical team is actively working to support farmers by providing biopesticides as a solution for mitigating pests and diseases on vegetable crops to ensure sustainable agriculture for smallholder farmers,” added Murunde. “Our information networks help disseminate best practice methods for using those tools.”  

For more information on IPM training or Real IPM products, contact saraeh91@vt.edu.

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