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Farmworker Training Field Day
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Report by Francisco Cornejo on First Farmworker Training Field Day

On September 12, 2001, the Spanish speaking farmworkers of the participating farms gathered at Mr. Bob Reynolds’s farm for a first training meeting. There were 14 employees from Mr. Sanders, Mr. Antongiovanni and Mr. Reynolds farms, although they were not altogether simultaneously. The objectives of the meeting were to give to the farm workers an introductory practical training recognizing the pest insects and some of the natural enemies that are present at this field. The topics of this meeting were related to the identification of Aphids, Whitefly and their natural enemies. We also talked about the importance that farmworkers will be getting through this training, in order to became an effective tool to the growers on pest control strategy.

The participants received a first visual observation of some of the insects. Lacewings, adults, eggs, larvae and pupae, Orius, Fly parasites, Predatory mites, Trichogramma spp., Praying mantis and Aphidoletes aphidimyza were the insects that the participants observed on boxes or paper bags where it was easy to see them. Those beneficial organisms were observed in their containers and then the participants started using the microscope to have a more detailed picture of them.

After that, we walked through few rows inside of the field and the crew started observing the beneficial insects that were present in the field, while walking through. Famworkers were able to observe Lacewings adults and their eggs, which are present in abundant numbers. Big eyed bug nymphs, Assassin bug, Lady beetle adults, eggs and larvae, Collops beetles, leafhoppers, syrphids flies adults and larvae’s and some parasitic wasps.

The experience was just great for everybody. The farmworkers that at the beginning showed some shyness and were reluctant in communication with others, at the end of the meeting they were excited with the findings, collecting and observing some of these insects through the microscope. Even Mr. K. Antongiovanni, who was the only grower to participate together with his crew, was satisfied that some of his employees were very active on the search and discovery of the small forms of these predators.

An interesting aspect was that some of participants started counting the numbers of ants that were found at some of the heavy aphid infested cotton plants and observations were made about the relationships among ants, aphids, lacewing larvae and distance from the dirt road. As they walked several feet inside of the field, the ant’s numbers were decreased, the Lacewings and Ladybeetles larvae were notoriously more abundant and honeydew was less intense.

At the end of the meeting a brief discussion was held related to the information that this particular farmer should receive. From the information that Omar, Mr. Reynolds’ foreman, shared with all of us, it could be an indication that Mr. Reynolds might consider spraying for aphid control. The overwhelming information that all of us had collected was this: There are high numbers of beneficial insects that are actively eating insect pests that are enough to likely stop the problem in the next few days.

We hope that it will be a new opportunity to be part of this interesting process. These people show a tremendous interest in what they were able to see and to learn. They proved that if only a little bit of the tremendous amount of technical information on the biological control field can be placed on their level of knowledge, using their own words, in language that is easy to understand and to follow, the results can be highly surprising. These people have seen all of these insects through all their lives. They do not know if they are good or bad. But because we do know that, it is our obligation to pass the information that will be useful for them to be more valuable workers for their employers, because growers will have several trained eyes looking at the insect ecology. Finally also they are able to contribute to decisions that are good for the environment because the collected information will be useful on the effective reduction of the use of pesticides.

As I was told later the same day by some of the participants of that meeting, there are some additional benefits that involve the whole family group. Due to this learning they will start using more sustainable practices at the household level. This will impact on the way they conceptualize the pesticides used on the whole production and also boost their interest in improved food choices through the practices of organic gardening in a continuing learning process

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