Crop Update Email Newsletter

Clarke McGrath, field specialist


Agricultural clients need access to crop and pest management information quickly and effectively throughout the year, most importantly in the growing season. While there are many sources of information for clients to use, Iowa State University Extension has the research-based, most up to date recommendations that agricultural clients desire to make the most accurate economic and environmental decisions. I want the clients to have quick, easy access to me and this information; however, with a large 10 county geographic area to cover, it is difficult to visit every agronomist, retailer, and grower who may have a question.

A quick, easy to use e-mail update was generated and sent directly to over 400 growers, retailers, consultants, agronomists, manufacturer reps, farm managers and media personnel in Iowa. The updates are also posted on several county web pages in southwest Iowa and on the area office website. As well as Iowa, the information finds its way to growers and dealers in Minnesota, Nebraska, Missouri and South Dakota. An advantage of e-mail is the ability of the clientele to send back questions and get a rapid response, so an e-mail link is included on the web-based version. Another advantage of electronic communication is quick delivery of the information. As a crop concern flared up in an area, such as soybean aphids, this season, the rest of southwest Iowa was alerted and provided appropriate information. Over 70 issues were sent this past year, with an average of two per week in the growing season. The updates are brief and easy to use, often containing links to more resources if the client needs additional information.

A survey was sent to the recipients of the e-mail version of the newsletter to evaluate its effectiveness. One hundred twenty-one clients responded, all were "very satisfied" or "satisfied" with the newsletter overall, with the vast majority being "very satisfied." Clients indicated that they electronically forwarded the updates to over 762 customers, co-workers, and neighbors. Seed, chemical, and fertilizer retailers also indicated that they printed the updates and posted them in their offices as well as including information from them in printed crop newsletters that are mailed to customers. The information was included in ag newsletters from retailers, seed and chemical companies, government agencies, and ISU Extension offices. The information was also put in print media and shared on TV and radio programs throughout the year. Some client comments were:

Clients who were inclined to put a dollar value to the impact of my ISU Extension crop updates indicated an impact to their operations and/or to their clients operations of over $1.5 million. Judging by the comments, number of clients who hear about, see, and use the updates in one form or another, and the economic impact, it is appropriate to say that ISU Extension information products can be and are effectively distributed from the field specialists to the clients, through many accessible means. The mailing list continues to grow.

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