Extension educators awarded USDA-NIFA grant for innovative outreach of sustainable pest management practices

February 22, 2022
By Laura Wormuth

A team of University of Maryland Extension educators was awarded more than $200,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture-National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA) to provide increased access and education in Integrated Pest Management (IPM) for Maryland and it’s uniquely diverse needs across the state.

The grant supports five separate teams that will focus on each IPM area – agronomic crops, green industry, communities, vegetables and fruit, and pollinator health and protection – all with a common goal of developing materials and educational workshops in both English and Spanish, to teach Marylanders environmentally sustainable pest management in both urban and rural communities.

“We have specialists who will be addressing the different aspects of the diversity in agriculture and natural resources,” said Anahi Espindola, assistant professor of entomology and lead investigator on the grant that will support this IPM work throughout 2022. “Every group on this team provides meaningful Extension programs – meaningful to their community’s needs.”

Each of the focus groups will employ various surveys and impact data to best determine the appropriate practices based on the diverse populations that they serve, as well as the diverse environments – whether farming or residential or community-based – to better reach their communities with the most timely IPM information. The grant also serves to translate many of the existing materials and information sheets already developed into Spanish as well.

“That’s why these types of programs are really interesting and necessary,” said Espindola. “Because they allow for collaborative teams to serve their communities in diverse ways while working toward the same goal.”

Espindola has already created a new blog that provides IPM and other agriculture-related information in Spanish with contributor posts being translated by the University of Maryland’s School of Languages, Literature, and Cultures. “We need funding to allocate to things like good and correct translations to show that we’re committed to these communities,” Espindola said. “We need to move away from always trying to find the easy way, even though it exists and we say it’s good enough, because it’s not. So if we are committed, we need to commit more than just wishes and good intentions.”

Although the five teams will be acting independently of each other servicing the needs of their particular constituents, they are integrated into this larger Extension program that encourages economically and environmentally sustainable pest management practices. Work has already begun for all five of the groups who will be collaborating with the University of Maryland Eastern Shore Extension team, as well as other outside agencies and institutions. 

“Because Maryland is so diverse, things that happen here are applicable to many other places,” Espindola said. “We serve the Maryland population, but we really serve anyone looking for this information – it’s helping to bring Extension into the 21st Century.”


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