Survey results for the UW-Madison Wisconsin Crop Manager Newsletter

The Wisconsin Crop Manager (WCM) is an electronic newsletter that features weekly pest and crop management information throughout the growing season. There were over 1,100 subscribers in 2015, and UW faculty and IPM staff wrote over 200 articles on a range of IPM and agronomic topics. The 30 weekly issues were downloaded 20,000 times during 2015, and an average of more than 3,000 visitors per month visited the blog.

In fall of 2015, a link to an online survey was sent to everyone on the email subscriber list. 194 people filled out the survey for a response rate of approximately 50% of “active” readers and close to 20% of all subscribers. Over half (63%) of the respondents work in private industry, including consultants, IPM specialists, sales, insurance, and farmers (10% of the readership are farmers). Approximately one-third (32%) work for a federal, state, county or local government agency; including 7% who are Extension agents. Most have been reading or subscribing to the WCM for around 10 years.

Results of the survey

Do people like the format and delivery of the newsletter?

A large majority (88%) access WCM as issues or in newsletter format as compared to one article at a time (e.g. via the Twitter feed), and many respondents (82%) read 75-100% of the issues they receive. The ones who access WCM in the newsletter format tend to read more of the content than the ones who access WCM on an article basis. Most of the respondents like the format and delivery of the WCM, and a large majority (71%) do not recommend any changes in this regard.

Is the newsletter a trusted and valuable source of information?

The Wisconsin Crop Manager is a trusted source of information, with 95% of the respondents who “often” or “always” trust and believe the information they read there. This was true regardless of how many articles the respondent typically reads in each issue. Readers find the Wisconsin Crop Manager valuable for timely advice on crop production, pest management and nutrient management, timely information on educational programs, and unbiased, science-based information. In their work, readers of the Wisconsin Crop Manager use the information to help manage crop pests, diseases, weeds, and to provide forecasts or warnings. A large majority (87%) finds either “most” or “some” of the articles relevant (56% said “most” and 31% said “some”).

Most respondents are unsure if they would be able to get this information elsewhere, and most (68%) value WCM more than other industry sources. Readers do not think the information from the WCM is a duplicate (93%); in other words they receive information there that they do not receive elsewhere.

Great work with unbiased research! Farmers would not receive the same information if only company representatives shared information! You keep on top of items BEFORE they become a problem. You look at prevention rather than always a crisis treatment! Thank you! (Ag teacher, Central WI)

It is a very useful publication and I would hope you would continue publishing. Years ago I read a paper copy and always found it interesting. Keep up the good work. (CCA Conservationist, SE WI)

Keep up the good work. You are providing a very valuable resource! I have great confidence in the research and recommendations from UW scientist and extension staff. (USDA Agronomist, SW WI)

How far does WCM information go?

The WCM readership extends beyond those on the subscription list. Two-thirds of the respondents share information with others, typically crop consultants and farmers. This trend correlates with other research findings that describe how farmers are less likely to receive information directly from University Extension sources than they are to get it from crop consultants and advisors. The readers who share the information mostly share it by email (95%) or in conversation (89%) and by printed copy (63%). By having them report the number of people and the frequency with which they share information, we estimate that the WCM has a reach of almost 120,000 touches per year. On average, these readers share about once a month with anywhere from 1 to 2,500 people each time. Information is distributed orally, by email, and by printed copy to an average of 7-14 people each time and via social media, newsletters, websites, and publications to about 225-1,500 people.

Does it save readers money?

One-third (34%) of the respondents said they saved dollars in their farm or consulting practice. These savings accrued from pest predictions and notifications, crop scouting recommendations, information on fertilizer and pesticide applications, prophylactic treatment options, economic thresholds, weed control, and seeding rates.

It is easily in the thousands to tens of thousands [of dollars]. (Self-employed, SE WI)

Where else would readers seek this information?

If the Wisconsin Crop Manager was unavailable, only 18% of the respondents said they would be able to get relevant information elsewhere, with most of this group (64% of this portion) identifying a neighboring state’s Extension service as their next likely source of relevant information.

The issues I’m seeing in my fields are often the issues in this week’s crop manager. For example, I used an article to decide on the proper timing of a fungicide application to prevent head scab in wheat. It was my first use of the fungicide and it worked really well in preventing high vomitoxin levels. (Grower, Central WI)

Maximum Return to Nitrogen recommendations… this information was shared through various methods including the crop manager newsletter. As a result, at forage council spring field days, I had producers raise their hands to indicate if they had reduced their nitrogen rates using the MRTN info, and the majority of farmers in a meeting of about 45 people had indicated they had done so. (Agricultural Agent – UW-Extension, NE WI)

A big thank you!

Thank you to everyone who contributed to the WCM survey and this report. Thank you to all WCM authors, contributors, subscribers and readers in general for making the WCM newsletter a valuable source of agricultural information.