Past Working Group Projects

To learn about the details of our Working Group grant opportunities, and how to apply, click here. All North Central IPM Center Working Groups strive to produce outputs that benefit many stakeholders, from farmers to scientists. Below is a list of our projects from the last funding cycle, and several of their projects' outputs.

Alfalfa Pest Management

Project director: Adam Sisson, Iowa State University

Alfalfa is a valuable perennial forage crop grown throughout the United States. Obtaining high yields of quality forage, stand longevity, and animal well-being are top priorities for alfalfa farmers and others involved in alfalfa production and protection. However, multiple diseases and insect pests threaten alfalfa production and can even harm animals consuming it. Pest management strategies include resistant alfalfa varieties, pesticides, and cultural practices. Foliar fungicide use is becoming increasingly popular on alfalfa, which can increase risk of pathogen resistance, especially with modern fungicide formulations. Alfalfa weevil has shown resistance to pyrethroid insecticides in several U.S. states. Furthermore, climate pattern changes can complicate risks associated with disease and insect pests. Managing disease and insect pests in alfalfa begins with regular field scouting and properly identifying disease and insect pest issues in a timely fashion. Improper identification and pest sampling techniques may lead to inappropriate and costly management attempts.

In order to help meet these challenges, an alfalfa pest management working group was created to determine top disease and insect pest priorities and to create new and easily-updatable educational resources and research tools, such as an interactive alfalfa insect pest and disease management encyclopedia and an alfalfa disease severity assessment training tool. 



North Central Region Herbicide-Drift Risk Management Working Group

Project Director: Douglas Doohan, The Ohio State University

Locally produced vegetables, fruits and wines, and certified organic products (specialty crops) are amongst the fastest growing sectors of U.S. agriculture. Yet the continued growth and stability of these enterprises is threatened by droplet and vapor drift from rapidly expanding use of highly phytotoxic herbicides, specifically dicamba and 2,4-D. In the North Central region, speciality crops are at an extremely high risk of drift damage, due to their close proximity to herbicide-tolerant corn and soybeans. There is a need within the region on behalf of both speciality crop growers and commercial grain farmers for education opportunities and resource creation to better understand drift and how to prevent it. 

The goals of this group will be to evaluate and prioritize the many issues involved, and develop and disseminate new resources that meet the established priorities. Long term goals will be to help farmers recognize and respond to dicamba and 2,4-D drift risk. In order to address the many stakeholders affected by this problem, the group will consist of weed, agronomic, and horticulture crop specialists.

Fact Sheets: Responding to Drift Damage, Preparing for Drift Damage, Frequently Asked Questions for Specialty Crop Growers, and Dicamba and 2,4-D Fact Sheet Series
Specialty Crop Growers Herbicide Drift Survey
The North Central IPM Center granted a second year of funding for the Herbicide-Drift Risk Special Project. 

Additional Work to Come
Weed or crop specialists are welcome to join.
A fifth fact sheet will summarize research on comparative plant sensitivities to dicamba and 2,4-D. This is still in development and should be available this winter. 
Slides for winter meetings are also being developed.
Learn more on the Herbicide Drift Risk Management Working Group website.


Invasive Species

Project Director: Theresa Culley, University of Cincinnati

A critical step of any effort to reduce the impact of invasive plants and pests is to first identify which non-native species are problematic – in short to assess and compose a list of invasive or pest species. To prevent a confusing proliferation of lists, many US states have been developing their own invasive species lists through their state-based councils and agencies. These groups typically create their lists using a specific assessment protocol, which often relies on information from peer-reviewed publications among other references. However, this reliance also poses the biggest obstacle as many members of assessment teams do not have ready access to these articles, many of which require paid subscriptions. Consequently, members of individual state assessment teams often spend their valuable volunteer time trying to obtain these required articles, often searching separately for the same information at the same time.

This Invasive Species Working Group will include representatives from multiple Midwestern states to create a more efficient assessment process, leading to quicker updates of invasive species lists. The two objectives of the Working Group are to (1) meet monthly to share references and thereby speed up invasive plant assessments by individual states, and (2) create a database of references with direct links to a publication repository. The Working Group will collect and combine all scientific literature that individual states have already used for their completed species assessments. The Working Group will then expand this effort to focus on additional species still in the assessment pipeline, so as to coordinate among states and prevent duplication of effort. The database will be updated through continual review of the scientific literature by undergraduate researchers, who will gain invaluable experience in invasive plant biology and policy. The outcomes of this project will be greater information exchange and knowledge sharing of invasive plant assessments, leading to quicker updates of state-based invasive plant lists.


  • Proactively identify invasive plant species and send alert in advance of widespread issues
  • Avoid each state replicating time and resources


Crop Protection Network (Multi-state Extension Resource for Field Crops Extension)

This project is still active as the Crop Protection Network. It allows Extension materials to be created once and then shared across programs in multiple states.


The Farming and Food Narrative Project

This project seeks to unite agricultural stakeholders, from researchers to farmers to ag businesses and organizations so that good farming practices can be implemented with benefits to farmers, citizens and society. Learn more on the Farming and Food Narrative Project website.

Agriculture and Wildlife Coexistence Working Group

The Agriculture and Wildlife Coexistence Working Group was created to help farmers with challenges associated with having wildlife near the farm, from crop damage to livestock disease. The goal was to list the problems, identify solutions and promote the solutions to growers.


Great Lakes Fruit Working Group

The Great Lakes Fruit Working Group unites professionals across multiple fields, from researchers to extension specialists and consultants to improve information sharing related to pest management on fruit crops. More details are on the Great Lakes Fruit Workers website or in this summary of efforts


Great Lakes Hops

Project Director: Erin Lizotte, J Robert Sirrine — Michigan State University

From 2010 to 2020, hop production interests increased dramatically, particularly in the Great Lakes, Northeast and North Central regions. Emerging hop growing locations include Michigan, New York, Wisconsin, Colorado, Canada, Minnesota, Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, North Carolina and other states with smaller operations. This includes acreage growth of 284 percent outside of the Pacific Northwest. The market support also grew in 2017-2018, with 50 percent of brewers saying they would pay top dollar for locally grown hops (International Hop Growers’ Convention & 2018 Hop Growers of America Statistical Report).

Despite the enthusiastic growth of hop production throughout the region, there are significant challenges to re-emerging production regions. There are limited resources and land grant university staff spread across the North Central region and neighboring states. In order to best serve growers, collaboration must be fostered to bring regional expertise to local issues. There is a need for development of new cultivars and best management practices to enhance yield, quality, and profit under the climactic and market conditions. The Great Lakes Hop Working Group (GLHWG) facilitates collaborative research, outreach and information sharing to help optimize the use of regional resources to maximize industry impact.




Great Lakes Vegetable Working Group

Project Director: Benjamin Phillips, Michigan State University
Regional extension educators in the North Central region can greatly enhance their ability to help growers by having a strong network and assisting growers across state lines. This beneficial network is built with meetings that include extension personnel and vegetable growers. Extension personnel and growers early in their careers learn much from networking with growers and Extension personnel in other states. Such connections serve them throughout their careers by exposing them to how others adapt to challenges and explore new opportunities.
The Great Lakes Vegetable Working Group (GLVWG) is uniquely poised to connect educators with colleagues that have knowledge that can bridge these gaps. The group will work to host a winter meeting for Extension professionals and a summer grower exchange to forge lasting relationships among young or beginning vegetable growers across the Great Lakes region. The working group plans to host a meeting in conjunction with the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers. Additionally, a summer tour for early career individuals will be held to connect growers in Ontario, Canada, and Michigan.


  • Developed print and E-version of Midwest Vegetable Production Guide (11,000+ downloads in 2020)
  • The Vegetable Beet Podcast - over 750+ total downloads
  • 3 Spanish IPM videos (scouting, diagnosing plant problems, collecting samples for diagnosis) - over 150 total downloads
  • Midwest Vegetable Trail Reports have over 12,800 downloads
  • Annual Meetings
  • Active listserv with over 140 members from 20 states and 2 Canadian provinces
  • Held Midwest Mechanical Weed Control Field Day in 2022

Learn more on the Great Lakes Vegetable website.


Iowa Pest Resistance Management Program

The Iowa Pest Resistance Management Program is a collaborative effort including individuals and groups representing all parts of the Iowa community, including farmers and landowners, small and national businesses, scientists, researchers and state regulators. Together, these partners leverage resources, expertise and time to help inform the public about pest resistance, find new pest management strategies and encourage public support and adoption of these practices. Since the state plan was written, two separate community teams have taken the lead to bring attention to local pest threats, potential resistance issues, and effective management options that preserve available tools.


Extension Entomologists Working Group

This working group is open to all extension entomologists. Meetings occur weekly in the summer to share details about pest issues. The team also stays in touch virtually with the software called Basecamp. Past success is summarized here  and includes the creation of the Journal of IPM


Midwest Fruits Working Group


The North Central Nursery IPM Working Group

Project Directors: Kyle Daniel — Purdue University

According to the USDA Economic Research Service in 2014, the nursery and greenhouse industry is the fastest growing segment of U.S. agriculture with both production facilities and cash receipts steadily growing over the last two decades. Nursery and greenhouse crops are the top five commodities produced in 27 states and the top ten commodities in 42 states. Nursery and Greenhouse production within the 12 states of the North Central region involved 3,038 establishments, generating $3.7 billion in sales and employing 52,108 individuals with a value-added impact of $3.38 billion. The North Central region has four states within the top 15, nationally contributing 13.6 percent to total national nursery and greenhouse sales. In addition, the North Central Region is home to several international and national operations distributing nursery stock under registered brand names.

Nurseries in the North Central region face a wide range of IPM and cultural management issues. They represent an economically important industry in much of the North Central region. Managing insects, diseases and abiotic problems can obviously affect profit margins for wholesale and retail nursery producers. In addition, nursery stock is increasingly viewed as a critical pathway for domestic transport of invasive insects and pathogens. Incorporating management practices to reduce pest damage will clearly provide economic benefits and increase the competitiveness of the industry across the North Central region. This working group aims to conduct an annual meeting, develop a website and formulate crop profiles for nursery crops within the region.

Learn more on the Nursery IPM Facebook page. 



Pest Alert Network

Project director: Erin Hodgson, Iowa State University

Both native and invasive pest species threaten crop production every year,  but many threats can be suppressed with prophylactic approaches to minimize losses to grain/forage quantity and quality. This Pest Alert Network Working Group will help facilitate improved communication between extension entomologists, farmers, crop consultants, and agribusiness employees to 1) expand scouting and identification efforts, 2) increase effective management options, and 3) improve farm profitability. These goals will be accomplished by creating a pest alert network, developing an accompanying website, and delivering three regional webinars.



Pollinator Education and Action for Youth

Project Director: Maya Hayslett, Iowa State University

While the general public is increasingly aware of the importance of pollinators, they are generally not well educated on threats pollinators face or what can be done to improve pollinator health and increase pollinator habitat. Pollinators are important for maintaining production of many food crops. Pollinators are negatively impacted by diseases, parasites, climate change, pesticide use, and loss of habitat. To expand resources for the protection of pollinators, the Pollinator Education and Action for Youth working group will 1) design youth educational experiences that lead to increased knowledge of pollinators and awareness of IPM, 2) provide resources to educators to implement these experiences, and 3) increase habitat for pollinators through these experiences.

Youth are contributing members of society that influence decision makers and create change themselves. Youth have a history as early adopters of new agricultural technologies and can influence the adults around them. Youth are the future decision makers, leaders, and workforce. Experiences youth have now can influence their decisions and may influence their career path.

This working group will convene educators and scientists from the North Central Region (Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, and Ohio) and Washington (Dave Hunter with Crown Bees) to develop cohesive youth educational programs about pollinators and pollinator protection. Educational programs developed by the working group will include 1) lessons that educate youth about the importance of pollinators, 2) lessons that educate youth about strategies for increasing pollinator habitat 3) lessons to educate youth about the role of IPM in protecting pollinators 4) activities for youth to consider the role of pollinators and pollinator habitat in their own community and 5) resources for youth and communities to take action that benefits pollinators.

Monarchs on the Move and the Native Bee Challenge will be used as model curricula currently available to meet this need. The working group will use these curricula and decide on additional resources to add. Monarchs on the Move and the Native Bee Challenge were developed by educators and researchers at Iowa State University to teach youth about the importance of pollinators and how to increase and protect pollinator habitat. The educational program design will encompass both in-person and remote delivery modes to fit the demands of the current educational climate.

Once the working group has developed a plan, school-based and informal educators will be recruited to participate. The working group will design and provide training and resources for educators in north central states through a series of online and in-person professional development opportunities. Supplies and resources to implement this plan will be purchased and provided to educators. Resources for educators include curriculum, supplies for implementing curriculum, and information on local programs that can be accessed for community projects related to pollinator habitat. Examples of local programs are school garden grants, projects that provide milkweed seed or plants, pollinator garden initiatives and collaboration with Master Gardeners. As educators implement this program it will lead to increased knowledge about pollinator protection and increased pollinator habitat in communities.


  • Creation of pollinator education goals around what everyone should know about pollinators to make informed decisions that benefit pollinators.
    • Reduce fear of bees
    • Know how pollination works
    • Understand how pollination is important for the economy, community, and ecosystem
    • List what contributes to pollinator decline
    • Create stewards of the environment
  • Pollinator education goals have been aligned with K-12 education standards.
  • Educational resources that meet the goals and standards have been identified and are being formatted into easy to use lesson plans.