Arroyo Colorado

Integrated Farm Management Education Program

Project Overview

Funding Source

Funding provided by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as part of the Strategic Agricultural Initiative Program.

Background

The Lower Rio Grande Valley is one of the fastest growing regions in the nation and this trend is a blatant reminder of the crisis facing our agricultural industry as it strives to produce healthy, low-cost food for our nation while protecting and conserving our natural resources and environment. Even with this rapidly growing urban population (more than 10 cities with populations over 10,000) though, the Lower Rio Grande Valley is also a leading agricultural area in Texas and produces a cornucopia of commodities including sugar cane, corn, cotton, grain sorghum, citrus (orange, grapefruit, tangerine, lemon, lime, tangelo), cantaloupes, honeydew melons and numerous vegetable crops (cabbage, onions, carrots, peppers, broccoli). The Arroyo Colorado, which provides drainage for much of this area, is a primary habitat and nursery for numerous species of marine fish, shrimp and crab and is the primary freshwater source for the Lower Laguna Madre, which supports major fish and bird populations and provide jobs and recreational opportunities that bring millions of dollars form tourism and commercial fishing to South Texas. Thus, the agricultural, economic and environmental health of the Valley is closely tied to the health of the Arroyo Colorado.

To protect the health of the Arroyo Colorado, the Texas AgriLife Extension Service proposes to implement an innovative education program for agricultural producers focusing on integrated farm management systems (whole system approach). This program, administered by the Texas Water Resources Institute, will meet three of the six goals identified by the EPA Region 6 SAI Program. Extension will host educational meetings and produce educational materials on the adoption of: proper pesticide application safety practices; an integrated farm management system approach; and water quality management plans and cost-share programs to implement management practices. These programs will be highlighted and publicized in an IPM newsletter, which will encourage the adoption of IPM, nutrient, irrigation or production practices. The agricultural diversity and current water quality issues facing this area confirms the need for this integrated education program.

Narrative/Workplan

This integrated farm management education program will meet three of the six goals identified by the Strategic Agricultural Initiative Program. First, Extension will utilize demonstration projects, outreach, and education programs to increase the adoption of reduced risk/IPM practices that provide alternatives to the use of highly toxic pesticides. Second, through these education programs, Extension will encourage partnerships between the producers and local and state government agencies (TSSWCB and local Soil and Water Conservation Districts) in the implementation of water quality management plans and best management practices that utilize reduced risk/IPM practices in the field. Finally, whole-farm management systems (nutrients, pesticides, water and production) will be taught and producers will be encouraged to adopt an integrated farm management approach.

To meet these goals and the specific project objectives, Extension and the Texas Water Resources Institute (TWRI) will collaborate on the following tasks (Task 1 and Task 2) over a two year period.

TWRI will administer the project (subtask 1.1), ensure responsible use of fiscal resources (subtask 1.2), facilitate regular communication (subtask 1.3) and maintain an accurate record of project activities and status and communicate this to EPA Region 6 (subtask 1.4). Extension will utilize its already developed resources and delivery system to enhance their programs to host educational meetings and produce educational materials for producers on the: adoption of proper pesticide application safety practices (subtask 2.1); adoption of an integrated farm management system approach including the proper use and implementation of IPM, nutrient, irrigation and production practices (subtask 2.2); and adoption of water quality management plans and cost-share programs to implement management practices (subtask 2.3). Extension will also produce and distribute an IPM newsletter to encourage the adoption of practices and educate producers about their integrated farm management systems (subtask 2.4). Extension will document project participation at all events and meetings. Selected programs will have pre and post assessment surveys or knowledge assessment surveys that will be used to quantify implementation of BMPs or the intent of the producers to adopt IPM, nutrient, irrigation or production practices.

Objectives

  • Enhance awareness of pesticide related water quality issues facing the Lower Rio Grande Valley and encourage producers to use lower risk pesticides in production practices.
  • Implement an integrated pest management (IPM) education program through education programs, newsletters and fact sheets.
  • Encourage producers to adopt an integrated farm management system ('whole system' approach) including pesticide, nutrient, irrigation and production management practices.
  • Develop partnerships between Texas AgriLife Extension and local Soil and Water Conservation Districts to encourage growers to implement best management practices and adopt management plans to protect water quality.

Measures of Success

SAI Program Outcomes to be Achieved:

  1. Increase the number of growers using reduced risk/IPM tools and techniques. Estimates of growers impacted by educational programs will be determined through program surveys.
  2. Measure qualitative reduction in use of higher risk pesticides or pesticides in general. Estimates of IPM practices adopted and thus, reduced use of pesticides, will be determined through program surveys.
  3. Encourage partnerships between crop producers, TSSWCB, NRCS and local Soil and Water Conservation Districts to implement reduced risk/IPM programs. Success of partnerships will be based on number of water quality management plans implemented.
  4. Measure change in level of pest management based on the SAI Transition Gradient. Extension will provide a post program estimate of the SAI Transition Gradient within the final report.

SAI Program Outputs Expected:

  1. Educational and outreach materials for growers. One fact sheet and one newsletter will be produced and distributed each year. Specific details in subtask 2.4.
  2. Conferences, seminars, and on-site field training. Multiple education programs addressing benefits and adoption of an integrated farm management system will be held. Specific details on programs can be found in subtask 2.1, 2.2 and 2.3.
  3. Partnerships established between federal and non-federal programs to provide reduced risk/IPM programs for crop producers. Success of partnerships will be based on number of water quality management plans implemented.
Project Tasks

Task 1: Project Coordination

TWRI will effectively coordinate and monitor all technical and financial activities performed under this contract, prepare progress reports, and maintain project files and educational materials. TWRI will be responsible for hiring and supervision of all project personnel.

Deliverables/Timeline:

  1. Quarterly Progress Reports (QPRs) - December 15, 2008; March 15, 2009; June 15, 2009; September 15, 2009; December 15, 2009; March 15, 2010; June 15, 2010.
  2. Agendas, attendance and summaries from regularly scheduled meetings submitted with QPRs - December 15, 2008; March 15, 2009; June 15, 2009; September 15, 2009; December 15, 2009; March 15, 2010; June 15, 2010.
  3. Quarterly Reimbursement Forms - December 31, 2008; March 31, 2009; June 30, 2009; September 30, 2009; December 31, 2009; March 31, 2010; June 30, 2010.
  4. Final report - August 31, 2010

Task 2: Conducting Integrated Farm Management System Education Programs

Extension will host educational programs promoting the adoption of an integrated farm management system. Agricultural producers will learn how to better manage their land and resources through the adoption of IPM, nutrient, irrigation and production practices that reduce the potential for nonpoint source pollution. The programs will typically be held as multi-county events, except where noted.

Deliverables/Timeline:

  1. Results from pre- and post-evaluation surveys or knowledge assessment surveys conducted at selected trainings (subtask 2.1, 2.2, 2.3)
  2. Education materials including fact sheets, website postings, etc. (at least 1 fact sheet will be released annually)
  3. IPM Newsletter produced annually
Reports
Project Personnel
Brad Cowan
County Extension Agent, Hidalgo County
956.383.1026
b-cowan@tamu.edu
Enrique Perez
County Extension Agent, Cameron County
956.361.8236
e-perez@tamu.edu
Lucas Garcia
County Extension Agent, Willacy County
956.689.2412
lagarcia@ag.tamu.edu
Geraldo Tapia
Extension Technician, Hidalgo, Cameron and Willacy Counties
956.383.1026
gtapia@ag.tamu.edu
Ruben Saldana
District Extension Administrator, District 12
956.968.5581
rjsaldana@ag.tamu.edu
Allen Berthold
Project Manager, TWRI
979.845.2028
taberthold@ag.tamu.edu
Contact
Allen Berthold
Project Manager, TWRI
979.845.2028
taberthold@ag.tamu.edu