MBCN to Change Format

Major changes are coming to MBCN starting with the new year. We will no longer be mailing paper copies; it will only be available electronically. Further, it will be produced as a quarterly rather than a monthly publication. The reasons for these changes are purely financial. Recall that MBCN was started primarily as a resource for university extension personnel, at both the state and local levels. Our intent was to provide information that could be used in the vast number of educational programs and resources routinely developed by extension workers. From the outset, we have felt that the best way to reach this audience was to provide the newsletter free. In our reader survey a few years ago we determined that within this primary target audience subscriptions would be insufficient to support newsletter production. Further, we found that many extension personnel, especially at the county level, would not likely subscribe; therefore we would lose a significant part of our primary target audience. Therefore, we have attempted to keep the newsletter alive through a variety of grants and donations. For 1999, we received direct donations from five midwestern land grant universities in support on MBCN, with the understanding that these would be one-time donations to provide additional time to find long-term funding. During this year we have pleaded our case in Washington with several people representing various agencies within the USDA, as well as EPA. Although everyone was politely supportive of MBCN, no one offered funding or could suggest other agencies that might be sympathetic.

Another factor in our overall decision relates to the declining level of input from our readers and even our editors. From the outset, it was our hope that our readers would share their experiences, both positive and negative, about biological control. Although some of you have contributed (and those contributions were greatly appreciated), the amount of material received was not as great as expected. In many cases, our editor has also been the primary writer; this has increased through time. So far this year, Susan, as editor, has written 50% of the newsletter, in addition to being responsible for editing, layout, production, website maintenance and a variety of other chores involved in keeping MBCN going. The sum total of these activities substantially exceeds the 10 hours per week that is budgeted for the editor's position. We are a bit uncertain as to why there has been a steady decline in contributions; perhaps, simply, the novelty has worn off.

For these reasons, by July we had decided that MBCN would die completely at the end of the year. We weren't happy with the decision, but we saw little other recourse, and were finally comfortable that the decision had been made. Then, in August, we attended the entomophagous nematodes workshop coordinated by Rutgers University. Our intent was to gather sufficient information for a dedicated issue of the newsletter, which will be appearing next month. One of the attendees, an extension nematologist from Florida, approached us and introduced himself, and proceeded to tell us how much he appreciated the newsletter and the various ways he had been using the information. At that point we knew, deep in our hearts, that we really didn't want to see MBCN die entirely. Over the past 5+ years many of you have communicated to us how much you have appreciated the newsletter, and how unique it is, filling an important void in pest management information.

So we have decided that, if there is sufficient interest, we will continue MBCN as best we can. Susan has now taken a full-time position as Master Gardener coordinator for the state of Wisconsin, but will volunteer time as MBCN editor, and we will both continue to solicit articles that we feel are practical and timely. We will continue as long as there is sufficient readership to make it worthwhile. The electronic newsletter will be published in March, June, September, and December.

Although this will be a totally free newsletter, we are asking any of you who are interested to "subscribe" by providing us with your e-mail address. When each newsletter has been posted on the website, we will broadcast a notification message to all subscribers. If you don't have access to the Internet, or just want to receive the text of the newsletter, you must specifically request the addition of your name to the email distribution list. Please send a message (with your address) to Susan Mahr to subscribe.

We have both had a grand time with MBCN. We certainly appreciate all of your messages of support. We hope that we have provided our Extension readers with information to improve your understanding of biological control as a viable pest management option, and increased your appreciation for the great diversity of beneficial organisms that are so important in pest management, but so often overlooked. To our paying subscribers, we thank you for your support as well, and we hope that we have helped you in your pest management activities. We also want to thank our subject editors and all of our contributors, without whom the newsletter never would have been possible. We hope that the electronic version of MBCN will continue to be useful to you all.

- Dan Mahr, Project Director and Susan Mahr, Editor

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