More than 40 licensed pest control advisers, certified crop advisers and qualified applicators have completed a new online continuing education course sponsored by the Western Plant Health Association and Western Farm Press.

Entitled “Nutrient Management in Key California Crops,” the course is offered free online and is funded by a grant from the California Department of Food and Agriculture's Fertilizer Research and Protection (FREP) program.

“This online course is a unique partnership for Western Plant Health Association with FREP and Western Farm Press,” said Renee Pinel, CEO and president of WPHA. “One of FREP's mandates is to educate California agricultural professionals on the proper use and handling of commercial and organic fertilizers, including any environmental effects, and there is no better place to do that than on the Internet.”

The class was posted online in October and is available on the WPHA Web site at www.healthyplants.org, Western Farm Press at www.westernfarmpress.com, and the California Association of Pest Control Advisers at www.capca.com.

Western Farm Press began sponsored online courses more than four years ago. Since then more than 15,000 licensees have earned credit online. The Fresno-based publication now has 11 courses accredited in California and another nine accredited nationally.

The course is accredited for one hour of continuing education in the “Other” category by the California Department of Pesticides and three hours of nutrient management CE credits by the California Certified Crop Adviser program.

The course has also been accredited by DPR and CCA for 2009 hours.

Information in the course is based on the premise that a healthy plant is a productive plant, one that can more readily fight off diseases and insect pests.

Nutrients are as valuable to protecting plants as pesticides, and are considered a first line of defense against yield-robbing maladies.

The concept of integrated pest management is one of the most complex and often oversimplified practices used in production agriculture. Often nutrients are not considered a component of IPM.

However, Peter B. Goodell, Ph.D., interim director and IPM advisor, UC Statewide IPM Program, says nutrient management plays a key role in IPM.

“IPM seeks to combine the best practices in pest control and crop production. In addition to disease susceptibility, excessive fertilization can produce excessive vegetative growth, which is more attractive to drawing insect pests.

“Managing crops for uniformity and providing the correct amount of nutrients, such as nitrogen, can provide a balance between the crop needs and insect attraction. Proper attention to overall plant nutrient status is an important component of an integrated pest management program, as are proper nutrition, appropriate variety selection and well timed planting to provide the competitive edge to the plant,” he continued.

“Without the integration of cultural practices, including rational use of fertilizers, increased use of pesticides can be anticipated.”