Working Group Projects

 All North Central IPM Center Working Groups strive to produce outputs that benefit many stakeholders, from farmers to scientists. The goal of these projects is to increase collaboration on IPM issues between states and even regions. Working Groups funded by the North Central IPM Center are listed below. To learn about Working Group grant opportunities, visit the Apply for Funding page

Project Director: Margaret Rivera — The Ohio State University

Urban agriculture enterprises, particularly within the North Central region, have established themselves as viable niche business ventures at a time of shrinking Extension budgets and limited staff resources in urban centers. Often people engaged in urban agriculture enterprises are new and beginning farmers, non-English speakers, or are from historically underserved populations. These operators/workers are often coming to the field without baseline experience with specialty crop production and/or pest management issues.

Extension personnel have noted that most urban farmers and community gardeners do not depend on conventional pest management and need to be exposed to appropriate research-based information targeted to very small-scale operations in order to minimize risk and ensure sustainability. In order to provide scale-appropriate resources, the Great Lakes Urban Agriculture IPM Working Group was formed. An organization of members from multiple Midwestern states, the working group seeks to make efforts to connect with Extension personnel in agriculture and transfer these connections to their goals. Current objectives include organizing a networking meeting, executing a survey for urban growers to identify their needs related to IPM, and two YouTube videos dedicated to harnessing attention from younger populations related to environmental considerations.


Project Directors: Jeffrey Bradshaw, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

The wheat stem sawfly (WSS), Cephus cinctus, has increased in abundance and geographic range throughout the Great Plains. It is now considered a key pest of wheat, with grain profit losses exceeding $350 million in the Northern Plains and many impacted acres from Colorado, Nebraska, to North Dakota, and now Kansas. This pest can reduce wheat yield substantially. In addition, losses in crop residue from sawfly cutting greatly threatens the resiliency of dryland cropping systems by threatening soil moisture storage and soil conservation gains made by no-till cropping practices within these systems. Few IPM tools, tactics, or strategies for WSS management have been broadly adopted throughout the region.

While there are not many commercialized IPM solutions available to manage WSS, limitations to adoption throughout the region are not well defined and some limitations may be hypothetical (e.g., inherently low yield in WSS-resistant wheat varieties) rather than real.

The Great Plains Sawfly Survey Working Group will inform needs and routes to IPM adoption, will hold a wheat IPM forum to take place at the 2023 ESA Annual Meeting at National Harbor, Maryland, and create a white paper that details the current status posed by the WSS to U.S. agriculture.

Project Director: Elizabeth Y. Long — Purdue University

Leading up to 2020, the industrial hemp market saw explosive growth in the Corn Belt. Despite these advancements, limited knowledge regarding hemp pests exists for growers, stakeholders and researchers. Whether hemp is grown for CBD, fiber, or seed (indoors or outdoors), this crop faces a suite of pests that may vary across hemp varieties and growing environments. Currently, growers in the Midwest have very limited resources to turn to for pest management recommendations in their hemp crops.

U.S. hemp growers face some uncertainty regarding the identification of pests (plant, insect, or pathogen) that appear in their crop, as well as uncertainty regarding the need for intervention because no action or economic thresholds exist for hemp pests. Additionally, pesticide options and recommendations for hemp pests are extremely limited at present. The Hemp IPM Working Group (HIPMWG) will work to integrate the knowledge and experience of entomologists, pathologists, weed scientists, and stakeholders nationwide who are engaged in industrial hemp production, to meet the challenges that currently face North Central growers.


  • Regular twice a month zoom meetings; team of over 50 members
  • Draft of IPM priorities for hemp crop
  • In-person meeting held in 2022

Project Director: Randall Cass — Iowa State University

Across the United States, beekeepers of all sizes (commercial, sideline, and backyard) experience annual colony losses at higher rates than previous decades. For many beekeepers, colony losses will result in reduced income from honey production and, more significantly, pollination services. The scientific community understands higher rates of colony loss are the result of four major honey bee stressors: pests and disease, loss of habitat/poor forage availability, pesticide exposure, and negative effects that result from multiple stressors working synergistically.

The goal of continuing the IPM4Bees Working Group is to foster learning, collaboration, and information/resource sharing among researchers, extension professionals, and other stakeholders that work in honey bees, native bees, and bee-related IPM. The primary areas of focus are pollinator-friendly agricultural IPM practices and IPM for honey bee pests

  • 2019 Entomological Society of America symposium: Monitoring, Mitigation, and Miticide: What IPM Strategies Improve Honey Bee and Native Bee Health?
  • Two-day workshop at Iowa State University
  • Beekeeping How-To plus Varroa Mite Check Tutorials: Extension Videos
  • Virtual Seminar Series 2021
  • IPM for Bees Extension Exchange Seminar held in 2022

Learn more on the IPM4Bees Working Group website

Project Director: Ana Heck — Michigan State University

Appreciation and concern for pollinators are in the public consciousness, but progress in improving pollinator health has been limited. In response to concerns about pollinator health, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provided guidance for states and tribes to develop managed pollinator protection plans (MP3s). The objective of these plans was to identify and implement ways to protect pollinators by reducing pollinator exposure to pesticides through integrated pest management (IPM) and best practice recommendations. The plans were designed to foster local strategies to promote pollinator health through communication, cooperation, and collaboration.
Progress made toward achieving steps in MP3s has faced challenges and has varied by state and tribe. A primary obstacle to progress on these plans is a lack of national-level direction and collaboration, resulting in each state or tribe working independently. To address this obstacle, our Managed Pollinator Protection Plans Working Group was formally established in March 2020 with funding received from the North Central IPM Center. This working group has addressed the pollinator health crisis by facilitating a coordinated effort for professionals working on MP3s to learn from each other, share resources, and eliminate redundant efforts.

Pollinator education for pesticide applicators fits within the MP3 strategies, as many MP3 action plans place heavy emphasis on training pesticide applicators on integrated pest management (IPM) and best management practices. On a national scale, there is a need for increased programming and resources about pollinator IPM for pesticide applicator training.  

By providing information about pollinator IPM to pesticide users, we expect to increase the understanding of topics related to MP3s and IPM. Pesticide applicators who adapt these suggested principles will reduce pesticide exposure to honey bees and other pollinators. Overall, we expect our project to lead to a greater adoption of IPM strategies, a reduction in pesticide use, and an increase in overall pollinator health.



  • Provides collaboration between states developing and implementing pollinator protection plans
  • Created pesticide applicator training materials focused on pollinator protection:
  • Delivered a symposium with 13 presenters was part of the Entomological Society Association meeting in November 2022 in Vancouver

Learn more on the Managed Pollinator Protection Plans Working Group website.

Project Director: Ryan Anderson, IPM Institute of North America, Inc.

The Midwest Grows Green (MGG) Lawn & Land Working Group is an initiative of the IPM Institute of North America, Inc to document, summarize and improve the state of sustainable landscaping policies and practices locally, regionally and nationally. 

The Lawn & Land Forum will meet the rising demand for sustainable landscaping by pursuing three objectives in 2023-2024: (1) improve identification of IPM/sustainable landscapes and landscaping services in the North Central region and nationally, (2) organize workshops and develop resources that equip landscape managers with the knowledge base to adopt and implement sustainable landscaping practices, policies and strategies and (3) increase sustainable landscaping adoption and implementation in the North Central region.  


  • Publication of that includes toolkits for sports and recreational field management and natural area management. 
  • Hosted three webinars attended by more than 150 landscaping professionals for Midwest Grows Green Week March 22-26, 2021. Webinars includes “Adding an Organic Lawn Care Service to your Business”, “Improving Soil Health on Sports and Recreational Fields” and “Viable and Safe Alternatives to Glyphosate). 
  • Developed the Technical Assistance Program (TAP) in 2020 that applies Lawn & Land Forum research, approaches and resources to eliminate synthetic pesticide and fertilizer use on parks (see  TAP currently supports Greater Chicago communities of River Forest Park District, City of Elgin, City of Lake Forest and Clarendon Hills Park District, K-12 schools of Ray Elementary School in IL and Milwaukee Public Schools, the City of Grand Rapids, MI and the Village of Shorewood, MN.
  • Created Green Shield Certified for Landscapes

Learn more at

Project director: Ryan Anderson, IPM Institute of North America, Inc

The School IPM Working Group provides information for controlling pests in schools while minimizing risks.

In 2023-2024, the School IPM Working Group will focus on disseminating The Pest Defense for Healthy Schools trainings (Pest Defense) and resources to both K-12 school staff and students. The Pest Defense program includes 10 no-cost, scientifically vetted IPM educational content modules tailored to specific school employee groups including: custodians, maintenance, facility managers, landscape professionals, food service professionals, nurses, teachers and administrators. 

The School IPM Working Group plans to expand Pest Defense trainings and resources in 2023-2024 by (1) increasing Pest Defense’s and school IPM’s brand awareness, (2) identifying and analyzing state policies that either promote or hinder school IPM and (3) developing pathways to incorporate IPM into school curriculums and, ultimately, everyday management practices.   


  • The Pest Defense for Healthy Schools is a central hub of school IPM information and has trained more than 4,000 individuals.  

  • Green Shield Certification is available for schools 

Project Directors: Kurt Dreisilker, Morton Arboretum; Theresa Culley, University of Cincinnati; Michelle Beloskur, Midwest Invasive Plant Network

In 2018, The Morton Arboretum partnered with the Midwest Invasive Plant Network to establish an invasive plant working group for public gardens, known as the Public Gardens as Sentinels against Invasive Plants Working Group (PGSIP Working Group). This name captures the desire of project participants of the public garden sector to become leaders on invasive plant issues by utilizing their horticultural and botanical expertise, and to help prevent the future spread of plant species being observed escaping from cultivation at public gardens by tracking and sharing this information. These plants are often species that are not widely recognized as invasive, not widely available within the nursery trade and/or are not commonly found on invasive species lists from region to region. However, spread from planting sites at public gardens is a possible indicator that the species could become invasive.

This group intends to train public garden professionals on implementation of shared standards for assessing and categorizing plants escaping from cultivation, and on how to share their findings through a shared database. Launched in 2020, the PGSIP database has undergone recent updates to reduce confusion over taxonomic synonymy and to allow working group personnel to easily edit records. Efforts in 2021 have largely focused on outreach to additional public gardens to drive contributions to the database. In addition, communication strategies for reaching non-garden audiences are being developed. 


  • Featured in the Journal of the American Public Gardens Association in 2019
  • Virtual presentation at NAISMA 2020 sharing goals and vision for the working group
  • Created a database for public garden data in 2020 (15 gardens have entered data)
  • Four webinars encouraging increased public garden participation in 2021

Learn more on the Public Gardens as Sentinels Against Invasive Plants website.

Project Director: Ryan Anderson, IPM Institute of North America, Inc.

Ticks and the diseases they carry pose a major public health concern to people, pets and livestock. The North Central region has recorded seven different species of ticks carrying 10 types of tick-borne diseases (TBD). All 12 North Central states reported Lyme disease cases to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2019. 

The Public Tick IPM Working strives to increase awareness of new and existing IPM strategies to control ticks and reduce TBD  incidences by providing open access to a large network of tick resources. The Public Tick IPM WG committed to the following objectives in 2023-2024: 1) increase tick and TBD awareness among health professionals, mosquito abatement districts, natural resource managers and the public, 2) enhance knowledge of tick life cycles, identification and taxonomy skills and best management practices among public health professionals, land managers and WG members and 3) assist underserved and vulnerable communities with developing integrated tick management (ITM) programs that effectively limit the spread of ticks and TBDs.


Learn more on the Public Tick IPM Working Group website. 

Project Directors: Audrey Kalil — North Dakota State University

Pulse crops (dry edible pea, lentil, chickpea and dry bean) are healthful food choices that are also vital components of cropping systems in the North Central region. Pulses are high-value crops that require little to no additional nitrogen fertilization due to biological nitrogen fixation, and they also provide a nitrogen credit to the following crop. Dry edible pea, chickpea and lentil require little moisture and are well suited to semi-arid, reduced-tillage systems. The addition of pulse crops into traditional wheat-fallow cropping systems has been an economic boon to rural communities. However, while pulses break up disease cycles in small grains in the rotation, these crops have their own challenging disease and pest problems.

The group works to foster collaborative relationships among researchers, extension professionals, growers, commodity groups and industry professionals through face-to-face meetings and virtual interaction to address growing IPM priorities in pulse crops. The group will also continue to produce educational outreach materials that correspond to grower needs, including a pulse crops podcast focused on IPM.


More details can be found on the Pulse Crops Working Group website.

Project Director: Caroline Hernandez, University of Illinois-Chicago

Pollinator populations are declining at an alarming rate across the world even as global agricultural systems become ever more reliant on them for food production. The main drivers causing the depletion of pollinator populations and ecosystems include intense land management, pesticide use, and invasive species. A decline in pollinator abundance has serious implications on food supplies and ecosystems across the world.
The scale of conservation required to address pollinator population declines demands an unprecedented level of coordination across industry sectors, geographies, public and private organizations, and government agencies. The Rights-of-Way as Habitat Working Group (Working Group) is one such effort that engages over 400 organizations across the energy and transportation sectors, conservation community, agricultural industry, academia, and federal and state governments across the U.S. and Canada. The Working Group, hosted by the Energy Resources Center at the University of Illinois Chicago, has grown rapidly over the past seven years and has become a leading resource for owners and managers of professionally-maintained, working landscapes— such as utility corridors, highways, and railroads, oftentimes referred to as rights-of-way (ROW)—who are interested in increasing pollinator-oriented habitat conservation and adopting sustainable integrated vegetation management (IVM) practices.
The Working Group focuses on information dissemination, facilitating cross-sector collaboration across a diverse audience, and managing tool development to support habitat creation and conservation on energy and transportation working landscapes. The Working Group uses these initiatives to educate energy and transportation land managers on Best Management Practices (BMP) for IVM and promote methods to increase native early successional habitat that is beneficial to pollinators. By sharing resources, BMPs, and strategies, Working Group participants can integrate learned activities from their peers into their vegetation management practices, disseminate the information within their own organizations, and systematically create and conserve native habitat along their ROWs.

To further facilitate implementation of pollinator-focused IVM in 2023, the Working Group will host four webinar presentations and roundtable discussions to address key issues related to beneficial vegetation management practices that create and conserve pollinator habitat on ROW. These issues include invasive species management, selection and identification of pollinator-friendly vegetation, communications with landowners and the public, and incorporation of traditional ecological knowledge and Native American land interactions. The Working Group will also send out  focused communications to the full Working Group sharing  updates on related partner work, collaborative opportunities, research, and updates on meetings and webinars related to pollinator-friendly IVM practices.  Furthermore, the Working Group’s website is a clearinghouse for disseminating IVM pollinator-friendly practices to determine and implement the most effective ways to enhance user experience, like integrating methods for searching, sorting, and filtering, and will be maintained and updated to emphasize the tools and resources related to managing habitat on energy and transportation lands. 


The Rights-of-Way as Habitat Working Group website is here. 

Project Director: Samuel Markell, North Dakota State University

Approximately 85-90 percent of the 2 million acres of sunflower planted annually in the U.S. are in the North Central region. According to the National Sunflower Association, diseases are the most significant biological yield-limiting factor for sunflower production. Despite this, few pathologists work on sunflower, and limited reference and Extension literature on sunflower diseases exist. Consequently, disease identification is challenging for growers and limited IPM recommendations have resulted in a reliance on fungicides that are sometimes not effective for disease management.

Project Updates

The Sunflower Pathology Working Group (SPWG) brings together experts on sunflower diseases across the country and the globe. Members work in North and South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska, California and Queensland, Australia. 

Past projects have included the development and distribution of outputs aimed at growers, grower advisors, students, diagnosticians, agro-chemical and seed companies as well as other researchers. Outputs have been distributed around the globe and translated into several languages. The SPWG enjoys close relationships with many public and private sector partners, who continue to multiply messaging and impact.

In the past year, the SPWG created and/or developed 18 disease pages on the National Sunflower Association website, published a chapter in the new APS Diseases of Field Crops book, and was awarded multiple research grants. 

In 2023, the SPWG expects to have completed the first “Sunflower Nutrient Disorder Diagnostic Series,” the first Plant Disease Lesson on sunflower rust, and a new “How to diagnose a Plant Disease” card set for growers and their advisors.  In addition, we anticipate submission of additional grant proposals to continue to develop and deliver disease management information to growers and their advisors.


Project Director: Sarah Lancaster, Kansas State University

Managing herbicide resistant weeds requires effective, timely communication of research-based information to farmers and agronomists. However, traditional outreach methods are less effective in light of changing preferences. Podcasts have become popular in American society and have proven to be effective at conveying information in a number of fields, but have not been examined in the area of pest management. This proposal seeks to form a working group that will develop and disseminate a podcast called “War Against Weeds” that will share current, relevant information related to integrated weed management. Specifically, 30 full-length podcasts will be recorded and shared along with approximately 15 shorter podcasts; podcast listeners and other Extension clientele will be surveyed to determine the effectiveness of podcasts for information dissemination; and podcasting experiences and survey results will be shared with other IPM professionals. The podcast will target farmers and other agricultural professionals throughout the North Central region. The information provided will increase listeners’ knowledge and willingness to adopt effective integrated weed management strategies. In addition, providing evidence to support the adoption of new communication technologies will support the adoption of new communication methods in other outreach programs.


  • 3 years of War Against Weeds Podcast episodes are complete with over 16,000 downloads

You can listen or subscribe to the War Against Weeds Podcast here.