Crop Protection Network: New Challenges and New Opportunities

The breadth and strength of agricultural extension from U.S. land-grant universities is larger than any other extension effort in history, and it continues to increase in importance as the role of extension adapts to a changing world. However, even with an innovative spirit and a collaborative mentality, new communication tools, and a demonstrated need for their services, agricultural extension specialists face challenges that can seem ominous.

These challenges include specialist retirement or movement to industry, leaving knowledge gaps and tough decisions within the university about whether or not to fill the vacant positions. Fewer funding sources increases competition for project sponsorship and fluctuating agricultural commodity prices create economic uncertainty among those who back extension work. State extension budget constraints are another challenge, forcing some states to reduce the number of county-based extension educators. As a result, faculty extension specialists have increasing demands on their time, often with fewer resources available.

Without land-grant extension staff present in the daily lives of agricultural communities throughout the state, university extension specialists may lose recognition and perceived value to stakeholders. This can contribute to a disconnect between extension specialists and farmers.

There is a danger of denigrating extension’s value in the public eye, and it is important that agricultural extension specialists continue to be a visible source of unbiased agricultural information for farmers and industry. One way to do this is by branding collaborative efforts in a way that capitalizes on the trusted extension relationship that has been built with farmers over the past 100 years. Such collaboration is necessary if extension is going to succeed in the modern era.

Multi-state research and extension projects have become more common in an effort to address the needs of clientele while dealing with limited resources. Multi-state projects are particularly relevant in the crop protection area as many crop management issues are similar across regions, extending beyond the boundaries of any single state. However, without a formal infrastructure for handling multi-university extension outputs (publications, videos, etc.), the impact of these collaborative efforts can be hampered by limited stakeholder access, complicated branding, and a lack of formal impact tracking.

The Crop Protection Network (CPN) was created to meet this growing need for a branded, collaborative infrastructure focused on developing extension resources for crop protection and decreasing redundancy of efforts. The CPN is a multi-state and international partnership of university and provincial Extension specialists, and public and private professionals that provides unbiased, research-based information. The goal of the CPN is to communicate relevant information to farmers and agricultural personnel to help with decisions related to protecting field crops.

The CPN is a product of Land Grant universities, and emphasizes the unbiased, research-based ideals of land-grant universities and like-minded institutions in Canada (such as the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs). The CPN provides a central location for housing extension outputs, allowing for rapid update capabilities and more efficient output tracking and impact reporting to participating institutions. The CPN is primarily concerned with diseases, insect pests, and weeds affecting field crops, especially corn, soybean, and wheat. However, other field crops and related issues can easily be addressed within the infrastructure of this organization.

The CPN has already helped streamline collaborative outputs, and generated strong resources that take advantage of the expertise present throughout the North Central United States and Canada. The Soybean Disease Management publication series, which won the 2015 American Society of Agronomy Extension Education Community Education Materials Award, is one example of the strength of publications that have come out of the CPN. We store all CPN outputs on a single website (CropProtectionNetwork.org), which provides a central location for all collaborative projects. All participating institutions are encouraged to link these publications on their respective websites. Such links credit the publication’s contributors and their institutions while capitalizing on the strength of existing extension efforts.

The CPN works to secure support from additional universities and entities. This support will encourage the continued participation of extension specialists in these important multi-state and international efforts, helping enhance the visibility and success of agricultural extension.

How to get Involved

To start, please complete and submit the “Get Involved” contact form on this page.

CPN members are primarily involved in land-grant universities or provincial agencies. However, membership is not limited to these groups, and is open to other public and private entities. In order for a prospective member institution to be recognized on the CPN website, prospective members must have administrative approval from their institution. Official administrative support can be as simple as written notice from the state extension specialist(s) saying that their administration is aware of their involvement in CPN. This support will be acknowledged by including the institution’s logo on this website.

In addition to this official recognition, authors are strongly encouraged to receive administrative approval before initiating a publication. Collaborators and reviewers for CPN projects do not have to be CPN members.