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TECHNICAL SESSION: Integrated Management of Plant Diseases

Interactive Extension: Using grower surveys and real time polls to identify management strategies and needs in organic tomato late blight control
Tina Wu - University of Wisconsin-Madison. Erin Silva- University of Wisconsin-Madison, Amanda Gevens- University of Wisconsin-Madison

Effective control of late blight, caused by Phytophthora infestans, requires integration of cultural, genetic, and chemical strategies. For organic growers, management must adhere to strict standards. Few commercial resistant tomato varieties are available and copper-based fungicides are a last resort due to concerns about its environmental impact. To identify the potential for adoption of non-copper fungicide alternatives in integrated disease management, a survey of 48 Wisconsin growers was conducted in 2018. Worker safety (57% of 23) and knowledge of application were extremely important factors (61% of 23) in influencing management strategies. More than one third (36%) of 22 indicated that they had used copper; just half of the respondents used non-copper fungicides. We investigated this further by polling organic growers at the Midwest Organic & Sustainable Education Service conference in Feb. 2019. More than half of the growers (26% of 47) confirmed their greatest limitation in using organic-approved non-copper fungicides was uncertainty in effectiveness. Just 6% of 47 were limited by cost or worker and consumer safety. More than half (50% of 21) indicated they were unsatisfied, unsure, or experienced variable satisfaction with non-copper organic approved fungicides. These responses suggested that enhancing knowledge of organic-approved fungicide effectiveness may improve integrated management of tomato late blight in the Upper-Midwest. Live polling technologies can be an exciting approach to obtain data about grower needs and facilitate two-way learning in Extension.