June 1994 // Volume 32 // Number 1 // Ideas at Work // 1IAW4

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Urban IPM - Alaska Style!

The Alaska IPM program was developed to meet a demonstrated need for entomology and pest-control information. Cooperative efforts between Extension and researchers from the U.S. Forest Service and the Agricultural Experiment Station have resulted in a statewide program reaching thousands of Alaskans. IPM technicians in seven Extension districts provide current and useful data on Alaska's pests and their management. Newsletters, site visits, newspapers, insect collections, herbarium mounts, and slide sets are being used by many educators and groups throughout the state. Almost all people receiving IPM information adopt one or more practices or principles.

Wayne G. Vandre
Horticulture Specialist
Cooperative Extension Service
University of Alaska Fairbanks
Internet address: afwgv@acad2.alaska.edu

Pest populations must adapt to changes in their environment if they are to survive and grow. The same is true of Extension education programs that are designed to serve clientele needs into the future.

The Alaska Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Program was begun in 1981 to meet requirements for current and environmentally compatible pest control philosophy and techniques. This was especially relevant and timely because the position of agriculture entomologist at the agriculture research station was vacant and would remain so.

Two IPM conferences were held at which researchers and Extension staff shared information on the status of and the need for Alaska-specific pest control education. As a result of this input, a plan was developed which would establish two Cooperative Extension IPM pest scout seasonal positions. The positions would be located in Anchorage and Fairbanks to serve the major urban areas as well as the surrounding agricultural areas. Supervision was to be by Extension with funding support, technical and research assistance, and program advisory assistance provided by the U.S. Forest Service and the University of Alaska Agriculture and Forestry Experiment Stations.

The primary emphasis of the Alaska IPM program was education. From a beginning with two seasonal Extension pest scouts, the program grew to nine positions in seven locations and the titles were changed to IPM technicians. The urban aspect of the program grew quickly as Alaskans found they now had an immediate source of information for questions on pantry, garden, and landscape pest problems and that someone could actually provide on-site identification and control option information. A statewide newsletter, "The IPM Scout," was developed to include updates on current regional pest situations, information on IPM practices and pest biology and behavior. End-of-season surveys showed that more than 90 percent of the newsletter subscribers had adopted one or more IPM practices.

Pest collections became a responsibility of each IPM technician. Over the years, many Extension agents as well as school districts, fairs, and museums have helped educate Alaska residents by displaying collections of beneficial and damaging insects, herbarium mounts of Alaskan weeds and native plants, and slide sets of insect, weed, and plant disease pests provided by the IPM program. Tens of thousands of Alaskans have learned more about the living world around them and the benefits of using IPM for identified pest problems. In addition to the newsletter, the IPM program relies on regular newspaper columns, radio and television appearances, workshops and classes, personal contact and phone calls, and a close association with district Extension Master Gardener programs to meet the requests for information.

The program year starts in May after the new or returning IPM technicians have been hired. Three days of training from Extension specialists and agents, Agriculture and Forest Service researchers, and USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) personnel cover topics from insects and disease pests to collecting and preserving specimens to public relations and administration. After returning to their respective districts, the IPM technicians work under the direct supervision of the district agent. They submit weekly pest status reports to the state IPM coordinator's office and write feature articles which are used for the newsletter. Regular audioconferences are also used for information sharing and additional training. An end-of-season report is also required from which a state IPM program report is written.

Requests for IPM information and assistance from the IPM technicians continue to grow rapidly. The reward of seeing people excited over receiving information that has improved their lives far exceeds the time and effort expended on the Alaska IPM program.