Appendix 1: Vegetable Pest and Disease Hotline

The South Florida Vegetable Pest and Disease Hotline is a biweekly newsletter produced by Gene McAvoy, Regional Specialized Vegetable Agent III, based in Hendry County, that provides growers with updated information on pests and diseases affecting vegetables in South Florida. The hotline has proven to be a successful communication tool for the vegetable industry and currently reaches over 1,500 individuals and businesses and covers over 120,000 acres, representing all major South Florida vegetable production areas. It is presently sent out by email, fax and snail mail in addition to being copied and distributed by others in and out of IFAS.

The need for the hotline became apparent at a meeting of the SW Florida Vegetable Advisory Committee in October 1998 where growers and others indicated a need for information on the incidence and occurrence of pests and diseases affecting vegetables in Southwest Florida. The concept was quite simple: pests and diseases are a constant dynamic threat to vegetable producers and timely and relevant information is required by growers to aid management efforts.

The hotline was an immediate success with growers and other vegetable industry representatives who recognized value in the information being provided. Initially the hotline targeted Southwest Florida primarily but demand from industry initiated expansion of coverage to all South Florida vegetable production areas.

The hotline is a collaborative effort that relies on a network of informants including growers, scouts, extension agents, specialists and others. The information gleaned from this network is compiled along with personal observations of the author, as well as information from other sources, to keep growers and others abreast of what's happening in the field.

In addition to updates on pests and diseases affecting area crops, the South Florida Vegetable Pest and Disease Hotline emphasizes an IPM approach providing information on identification, life cycles and control tips as well as other relevant information such as weather, label changes, current research and other news of interest.

Industry values of the hotline and the list of sponsors which have come forward to help underwrite publication includes many of the major players in the vegetable industry – Thomas Produce, Gargiulo, Alico Plant World, Syngenta, Dow, DuPont, Monsanto, Glades Crop Care, Agricultural Crop Consulting, and many many more.

The hotline is now in its 10th year of publication and is currently recognized as the premier vegetable pest and disease newsletter in Florida and has achieved national recognition being noted in the Environmental Protection Agencies web-based listing of US Integrated Pest Management Newsletters. As one subscriber to the hotline indicated that, "Accurate and current information is the best defense against insects and disease." Another noted, "The hotline helps me see the big picture and not just what's happening in my fields."

The formula for the success of the hotline has been simple - listen to clients, identify perceived needs and wants, and provide a product that meets a need. Teamwork makes it possible and evaluation helps keep it relevant.

Contributions or comments and suggestions are always welcomed and appreciated.  Become a contributor and let us know what you are seeing or what you think. It is a simple as a quick e-mail.  If you would like to be added to the distribution lists, contact Gene McAvoy and indicate your delivery preference.

Gene McAvoy
Hendry County Extension Office
PO Box 68 LaBelle, Florida

For more information visit the Hendry County Website

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