Author

Anya Rose

Date of Award

12-2010

Level of Access

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Ecology and Environmental Sciences

Advisor

Francis Drummond

Second Committee Member

David Yarborough

Third Committee Member

James Acheson

Abstract

A survey was sent to 343 lowbush blueberry growers in Maine with a response rate of 29%. Growers were asked questions about their management practices, pesticide use, priorities, decision-making influences, and beliefs about pesticide safety. Respondents categorized themselves into one of four categories: Integrated Pest Management (IPM), Conventional, Organic, and No-Spray. Analyses were conducted to examine factors that were linked to these four categories. A major goal of this study was to determine differences and similarities between growers of different management styles, and to define each category by the practices and beliefs of its members. Toxicity ratings were also calculated for each grower according to the pesticides they used, and correlations between toxicity rating and other factors are noted. The majority of blueberry growers, regardless of farm type, prune at least part of their fields by mowing, use bees for pollination, earn income from another job, and are influenced by the Extension in their management decisions. Blueberry growers of all management styles also noted family, neighbors, and other farmers as strong influences, and indicated little to no influence, on average, from mass media sources. There were few significant differences between grower groups in priorities. Many growers noted, "making a profit" and "maintaining the value of the land" among their top three priorities. "Providing healthy food for the public" was a major priority among organic growers, and IPM and conventional growers prioritized "continuing my family's legacy" significantly higher than the other two groups. Likewise, there were few correlations found between management style and age or education. I discuss this it relates to the Diffusion of Innovations Theory. I also discuss adoption of practices that encourage native pollinators, and relate adoption of these practices to the same theory. IPM growers were found to be similar to conventional growers in many of their practices, but they monitor for insects and take leaf tissue samples significantly more than conventional growers. These two practices, as well as higher dependence on income made from blueberries, may be what distinguish IPM growers from conventional. I also discuss the label, "Conventional," and suggest an alternative term that might be applied this category of grower instead. No-Spray growers were found to be similar to organic in the majority of their practices and in beliefs about pesticide safety. No-Spray growers have been called, "non-certified organic" in other studies because their practices are thought to be very similar to those of organic growers, save for the actual certification. I found this to be true of Maine blueberry growers as well. I propose separating Maine blueberry growers into just two, over-arching categories: "Pesticides Used" (includes IPM and conventional growers) and "Low-to-No Pesticides Used" (includes organic and no-spray growers). I discuss how viewing growers in this way allows for a better understanding of the communities, their practices, beliefs, and influences. Because IPM was found in this study to be similar to Conventional in many regards, I also research IPM certification programs that have been successful in other states and propose that Maine follow suit.

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