University of Georgia Cooperative Extension is well represented in this year’s crop of graduate students on the UGA Tifton Campus.Twelve Extension agents are enrolled this semester at UGA Tifton as part of the Master of Plant Protection and Pest Management (MPPPM) program in the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. The agents work in counties in south Georgia.“UGA Extension has a history of working with and serving Georgia residents. With many of our agents enrolled in the MPPPM program, farmers and homeowners will benefit from the increased education our agents are receiving,” said Scott Utley, Southwest District agricultural and natural resources program development coordinator.Laura Perry Johnson, director of UGA Extension, believes the program is a win-win for all involved.“This increases our graduate student numbers at the UGA Tifton Campus and trains a much-needed workforce for the applied agricultural industry,” Johnson said. “Best of all, it allows our current employees an avenue to further their education in an area that will increase their expertise and make them more valuable in their jobs, allowing them to have more impact with their clientele. I am beyond excited about the growth in the MPPPM program.”The college’s departments of Entomology, Crop and Soil Sciences and Plant Pathology jointly coordinate the MPPPM program. It is designed to produce graduates with comprehensive, multidisciplinary training in Integrated Pest Management (IPM) of weeds, plant diseases and insect pests of agricultural, commercial and home commodities.“The Master of Plant Protection and Pest Management has become one of the most sought-after degrees by entities that are looking to hire graduates who can apply the latest research to real world situations,” said Jason Peake, director of academic programs at UGA Tifton. “The MPPPM degree equips graduates with not only the technical knowledge to be successful in the field, but also a full understanding of the science and technology behind that knowledge that allows them to make the best decision, regardless of the situation.”There are 28 students enrolled in the MPPPM program at UGA Tifton. David Riley, graduate coordinator for the program at UGA Tifton, said many students who follow through with the MPPPM program pursue Extension careers upon graduation. Of the five students who graduated last spring, two became Extension agents. “The program has gained a lot in popularity over the past year,” Riley said.Along with being trained for a career in Cooperative Extension, MPPPM graduates are prepared for employment as IPM professionals in pesticide and fertilizer services, the pest control industry and regulatory agencies.The program is offered on all three CAES campuses in Tifton, Griffin and Athens, Georgia.New student orientation for the MPPPM program at UGA Tifton is set for Friday, Aug. 14.