Illinois pesticide program honored by national association

ST. LOUIS – A team of Illinois Extension pesticide safety education experts received a national award from The Pesticide Stewardship Alliance during its annual conference held virtually in February.

The Program Innovation Award was presented to the University of Illinois Extension Pesticide Safety Education Program and includes team members Michelle Wiesbrook, Illinois Extension weed science specialist; Travis Cleveland, Extension plant pathology specialist; Matt Gill, Extension application technology specialist; Sarah Hughson, Extension entomology specialist; Jean Miles, Extension program facilitator; and Maria Restrepo-Turner, Extension integrated pest management specialist. 

The PSEP team develops and administers educational content for the state’s 32,000 licensed commercial and private pesticide applicators. In partnership with the Illinois Department of Agriculture Bureau of Environmental Programs since the 1960s, PSEP annually plans and conducts 35 to 40 high-capacity in-person training clinics throughout the state, averaging 12,500 attendees.

In response to COVID-19 in-person restrictions, the PSEP team delivered a rapid development and deployment of asynchronous online training courses and remotely proctored certification exams for commercial and private pesticide applicators in Illinois. Seven unique training courses were used by more than 7,000 individuals. More than 12,000 remotely proctored exam attempts were administered across 19 unique certification exams. While initiated as a response to COVID-19, overwhelmingly positive clientele feedback has implanted this new outreach method as a permanent fixture in the PSEP program and the Illinois Department of Agriculture’s pesticide applicator certification program.

The online process combines PSEP’s online training courses and IDA’s online certification exams into a convenient format. The online format offers clientele a safe option to access PSEP courses and take their certification exams from anywhere in the world, at any time. PSEP training opportunities have also expanded to many remote, underserved areas of the state.

"The new online training courses and testing option provides an innovative solution to a problem affecting pesticide users throughout the state," says Gill. "These program advancements will reshape and enhance PSEP’s outreach abilities well into the future and also work as a model for Extension’s future online course development."

ABOUT EXTENSION: Illinois Extension leads public outreach for University of Illinois by translating research into action plans that allow Illinois families, businesses, and community leaders to solve problems, make informed decisions, and adapt to changes and opportunities.

ABOUT TPSATPSA , founded in 2000, is an organization of federal, state, and local governmental agencies, educational and research institutions, public organizations, private corporations, and individuals that are actively involved in different aspects of pesticide stewardship.  The goals of TPSA are to increase the effectiveness, efficiency and longevity of various pesticide stewardship efforts. 

WRITER: Ples Spradley, TPSA Awards Chair
EDITOR: Judy Mae Bingman, Illinois Extension Marketing and Communications Manager