4 Keys To Biocontrol Success

Steinernema carpocapsae
Steinernema carpocapsae. Photo courtesy of Dan Gilrein and John Sanderson.

Biocontrol use in greenhouse pest control is increasing as more growers understand the differences from traditional chemicals and unique requirements for the best results. Here are four keys to keep in mind when implementing a biocontrol program in your greenhouse.

Biological control is the action of parasitoids, predators and/or pathogens to maintain a pest infestation at a level low enough such that economic damage does not occur. For greenhouse crops, pests should be kept at non-detectable levels.

Biocontrol must be used as part of a total integrated pest management (IPM) program, including scouting, resistant plants/cultivars, cultural, physical and compatible chemical controls. The emphasis is on the use of beneficial organisms, with pesticides only used as an occasional backup.

Biocontrol almost always must be used preventatively, with beneficials released before pests are detected. The beneficials rarely are able to control an already serious infestation. They are not fast-acting and must be used to keep a very low level of pests from increasing. A grower must plan ahead.

To tell if your beneficials are working, think about how you tell if your insecticides are working. Scouting is crucial for pest detection and determining if pest levels are going up or down, whether using beneficials or pesticides. Also look for signs of predation, parasitism, and the beneficials themselves. Hand lenses are very useful to see these signs.

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