This survey was conducted as part of the Lettuce IPM project VG05044 and to complement work in the IPM Stocktake (VG05043).
Information was sought on how to best deliver support to agricultural consultants that would enable them to support the development of integrated pest management (IPM) skills among their clients.
A telephone survey of consultants for the vegetable and lettuce industries was conducted in July 2006.
The purpose of the survey was to determine the level of knowledge of, and confidence in integrated pest management.
The survey was modified from the key IPM informant survey used in IPM Stocktake. A list of consultants was generated through the project’s industry network and a total of 12 were interviewed.
All those contacted were prepared to undertake the interview. Whilst the number interviewed is small it is virtually the entire population of agricultural consultants in this field.
General understandings of the consultants’ knowledge and confidence in IPM can be made, and serves as an indicator of the current skill level amongst consultants.
This survey of lettuce consultants has demonstrated that these particular consultants generally have a well developed skill set.
They report high levels of confidence in providing advice on general agronomic and pest management practices, but lack confidence in providing advice on biocontrol strategies.
They have a sound understanding of the concept and principles of IPM but lack detailed knowledge.
They are clearly experts on pest and disease recognition and have good access to support services to back up diagnoses.
They have high levels of confidence in crop monitoring.
In general the consultant suggest that farmer understanding and acceptance of IPM and the complexity of IPM limit the adoption and that proven on-farm successes and ‘outside’ influences (lack of available chemicals, resistance crises) improve adoption.
Several options for improving support of IPM were identified by consultants. The main suggestion was education or training. Improving the knowledge and awareness of IPM amongst growers makes the job of the consultant easier.
They can focus on the details of the IPM strategy with the grower rather than having to educate the grower on the IPM concept. The buyers and consumers also need further information about IPM and biocontrol.
If there is a general understanding and acceptance of IPM amongst growers and their customers, adoption can be improved.
Consultants also identified their own training needs and made suggestions including (consultant only) workshops and resources that would assist them to improve IPM consultancy services they offered.
A general impression was gained from the survey that IPM messages are an important part of current and future consultancy services but consultants require greater surety about IPM implementation.
This project was supported by the National Vegetable Levy and AusVeg.