Local Extension Crop Newsletter Enhances Crop Management for West-Central Iowa Farmers and Agricultural Industries

Todd Vagts, crops field specialist

Situation
The local crop production and protection newsletter, Crop Update, was directly issued in seven west-central and northwest Iowa counties (Carroll, Crawford, Monona, Calhoun, Sac, Ida and Pocahontas) as well as other selected locations in Minnesota, Illinois and Nebraska. The newsletter was distributed to ag industries, service providers, financial institutions, and farmers via fax and e-mail. Crop Update is also posted on the Internet, where it can be accessed across the United States and around the world. Currently, the newsletter is e-mailed to 120 farmers and over 200 agricultural industry personnel. In 2003, 30 issues of Crop Update were distributed between March and November. At the end of the season, we sent out a survey about the effectiveness of the newsletter.

Response
A visual inspection of the affected area was made hours after the storm passed through the four-county area. Several radio interviews were conducted to get information out to area farmers on immediate actions they needed to take to asses the potential damage to their corn crop. A storm damage assessment Web page was developed and two information bulletins were written. The first bulletin addressed topics dealing with how the crop may respond to being lodged and potential problems the crop may encounter as it recovered. The second follow-up bulletin addressed special preparations and considerations needed by area farmers to harvest the lodged corn crop.

Impact
In the survey, nearly all the respondents (n=57) indicated that the newsletter contained information pertinent to their crop and pest management situations and needs. The survey results also indicated that Crop Update was timely and its format was easy to read and understand. One respondent said, “The information helped me save time by not having to search databases and files on my own. I just access the newsletter for pertinent info on economic thresholds and such.”
Ascribing a dollar value to information is difficult, and in many cases value is more easily described through experiences. One reader said, “Decisions that I make are reflected upon by input I receive from Todd (Crop Update). Utilizing accurate information saves growers thousands of dollars every year using recommendations that are sound and reliable.”

Fifty of the fifty-seven respondents indicated that ISU Extension is their No. 1 or No. 2 source of crop production and protection information. In addition to e-mails and faxes, the newsletter Web page was viewed 4600 times (an average 12.6 times per day) in 2003.

Farmers who directly receive Crop Update clearly have an advantage over those who do not. The survey showed that eight of ten producers who receive Crop Update feel they are adequately informed about the soybean aphid, western bean cutworm, and bean leaf beetle, whereas only five out of ten members of the general farming community feel adequately educated about the same pests (according to data from a survey presented to farmers at pesticide applicator recertification meetings). For the three major insects indicated, this was a 60 percent increase in confidence in managing the pest.

Overall, the newsletter has benefited most recipients, as indicated by this reader: “You're doing an excellent job of getting us timely information so we can make better recommendations to our customers. Please don't stop this practice or shorten it any. Thanks.”

Page maintained by Linda Schultz, lschultz@iastate.edu