Search for Excellence in Consumer or Commercial Horticulture

Liz Felter
Commercial Food Systems & Horticulture Agent
University of Florida
Central District

Felter, E.*1, , Moffis, B.*2, , Pinkerton, M.*3, , Ricketts, G.*4, , Smith, M.*5, , Wooten, H.F.*6,
1 Commercial Food Systems & Horticulture Agent, University of Florida, Apopka, FL, 32703
2 Commercial Horticulture, Lake County, Tavares, FL, 32778
3 Sustainable Ag & Food Systems, Seminole County, Sanford, FL, 32773
4 Commercial Horticulture, Osceola County, Kissimmee, FL, 34744
5 Sustainable Ag & Food Systems, Sumter County, Bushnell, FL, 33513
6 Commercial Horticulture, Orange County, Orlando, FL, 32812

OBJECTIVES: The purpose of this educational program was to increase IPM scout training practices for workers within the greenhouse/nursery industry and to increase environmentally friendly production practices. Central Florida is the second or third largest production area in the state with total sales for Lake, Orange, Osceola, Seminole and Sumter counties at $2.23 billion (Hodges, Khachatryan & Court, 2018). METHODS: A 3-day mini-series of classes was provided to accomplish these objectives. A team of 5 commercial horticulture agents and 4 Extension research specialists taught the various topics. Participants were taught how to identify insect pests, beneficial insects, weeds, diseases, nematodes and abiotic symptoms, how to monitor soil pH and fertility and the importance of water quality along with digital photography. In recognition of the participants various learning styles a variety of educational activities were used. These activities included PowerPoint, videos, lab demonstrations, class discussion, field trips and hands-on scouting practice. RESULTS: Participants indicated 84 % increased their pest identification skills,93 % stated their job performance would increase, almost 77 % indicated they had implemented one or more IPM practice at their job site, 29% reported the training helped them get a higher paying job or a pay raise at their current position. The amount of money received was a dollar more per hour. Finally, 100% agreed or strongly agreed that what they learned in the class was useful in their job.  CONCLUSION: This class teaches employable skills to industry workers resulting in pay raises and promotions. The skills also reduce water used and increased monitoring of fertilizer practices. It also increases the accurate identification of plant problems which allows for timely and least toxic means of control.