5 Mistakes You May Be Making With Biocontrols

Kerri Stafford
Kerri Stafford

Starting a biocontrols program is a learning process and if there’s one thing for sure, it’s that you will make some mistakes. Here are five mistakes many growers encounter when they start with biocontrols.

Mistake #1: Looking at this as a “biocontrols program” rather than as an “IPM program.”

Most people come into a biocontrols program used to the way things are done with chemicals. They have a “zero-tolerance” mindset or expect to be able to fix a problem after it’s started. If you start out thinking you’re going to accomplish those things with a biocontrols program, you’re going to run into some roadblocks. Biocontrols don’t fix a problem. You have to use them before there is a problem.

It’s better to understand you’re implementing an integrated pest management (IPM) program. With that perspective, you’re going into this thinking about how you can use both chemicals and biologicals together. You can integrate softer, safer chemicals into a bio program. If you have a problem and have been using your biocontrols appropriately, you can spot spray. You can fix things without totally blowing up your biocontrols.

This was a change for us when we started a biocontrols program here at Cavicchio Greenhouses in 2008. We were using products in our chemical rotations that just aren’t bug friendly. You have to look at every chemical you use and the interactions they have with your biocontrols. You don’t want to kill the good bugs along with the bad bugs.

Mistake #2: Not planning in advance. Or just as bad, not adjusting a plan as needed during the season.

Planning is the biggest part of a biocontrols program. You want to be set up before any plants come in and before any issues start.

Once I have a plan for the season ready to go, I usually order everything I need on a weekly basis. Walking through our crops each week, we see if we need to make changes. Being able to adapt your plan to what you are seeing is very important.

For example, I forecast what we’ll need for our entire poinsettia program by the end of June. Poinsettias come in at the end of July. Then every week, we walk through the crop. If pest numbers are high, I’ll add a couple of things to next week’s order to build some extra protection into the plan.

A lot of the biocontrol companies will help you make a plan based on your square footage and what you are growing. The first year, we worked with a plan our supplier helped us put together. After that, we tweaked it in ways that worked better for us. It’s great to have a plan, but you have to be able to be versatile and change with the seasons, and weather patterns and what’s going on out there. If it turns out to be a big whitefly year, you want to have a good defense prepared.

Mistake #3: Having unrealistic expectations about what a biocontrols program can and should do.

Biocontrols are not a curative. You can’t wait for a problem to happen and then bring a program in. You have to start ahead of time and build up populations.

With a normal chemical program, when you see some thrips or whiteflies on a sticky card, you know you’ll be spraying soon. In a bio program, you can see a few pests on a sticky card and know it’s okay. I may know I have some pests around but I’m also seeing biocontrols on my sticky card, so that’s good. I’m looking closely at my plants and not seeing much of anything there, and what I am seeing is parasitized. So three whiteflies on the sticky card isn’t so bad. The next week if I see 10, I may bring in a little extra protection with more biocontrols, but I’m not going to go away from my plan.

It’s a hard transition to make from a chemical program to a bio program. You want to keep your same quality standards as a chemical program but give the customer a plant that is grown more sustainably.  When you start using biocontrols and you see a few pests on your cards, you get nervous. Some people will pull the trigger and spray something and then try to go back to biocontrols. That often won’t work, since whatever you sprayed may have a residual that kills your biocontrols.

Mistake #4: Not thinking about what’s happening to your product before you receive it.

If you don’t think about where your product is coming from and what it was treated with before you receive it, you may risk the possibility of having some problems in a biocontrols program. This goes for the plugs and cuttings you are planning to using a biocontrol program on, as well as finished items you have brought in to sell. Any plant in your greenhouse can play a role in how effective your bio program is. Everything we have coming in has been treated prior to us receiving it, and it may have been treated with chemicals with long residuals.

This happened to us one of our first years growing poinsettias with a biocontrol program. One of our liner suppliers treated those liners with something that harmed our biocontrols. That residual was on the plants for four weeks. We kept putting out bugs and all the bugs were dying. We had no idea why it wasn’t working.

Let your suppliers know you’re using biocontrols and ask about their spray program. Maybe they can tweak it a little bit so that it’s safe for you to start that bio program as soon as the liners arrive.

All of our suppliers are really willing to work with us. They share their lists of chemicals and have been more than happy to make a few changes.

Mistake #5: Having a “zero-tolerance” mindset.

You’re not using a chemical program anymore. Remember that IPM approach.

You have to be able to look at your sticky cards in an objective way with some tolerance and say it’s okay to have some pests. If I have biocontrols, they need to eat those whiteflies, or eat the larvae or parasitize it. That’s how they are going to live. Having some pests out there to feed your predators is a good thing.

It’s definitely hard to get past the “zero-tolerance” mindset, especially if you don’t understand the full reason for what you’re doing with a biocontrols program.

Changing that mindset in your operation is the first step but you may also have to let your retail customers know what you’re doing. We let our customers know ahead of time that we’re using biologicals, and they may occasionally see some of the biocontrols in the crop, or they may find one of the biological delivery cards on a plant. Overall, our customers have responded very positively and have welcomed our efforts to move our pest control in a more sustainable direction.

In the end, my best advice to help you avoid these mistakes is to believe in your program, follow your plan and watch it all the way through. Start slow. Ask questions.

Biocontrol companies have great staffs that will come in, work with you and help you get started. Take advantage of those resources. They want you to be successful as much as you want to be successful.

Biocontrols-web-graphic-34_1

Topics: ,

Leave a Reply

More From Crop Inputs...
foxglove-aphid

November 29, 2016

How Greenhouse Growers Can Manage The Foxglove Aphid

Recent research is shedding new light on the foxglove aphid. Understanding host plants, identification, and biology will help growers deal with this pest.

Read More
growth-products-catalog

November 19, 2016

Growth Products Launches New Catalog Of Horticulture Biological Products

The full-color resource guide provides detailed product descriptions and rate charts for all of the company’s bioinnovations, liquid fertilizers, micronutrients, and biological control products.

Read More

November 1, 2016

Bayer Production Ornamentals Hits The Market With 17 Products And More Coming

November 1 officially marked the launch of the Bayer Production Ornamentals business, serving professional growers in greenhouses and nurseries across the U.S. Its comprehensive portfolio of innovative product solutions and support includes product and pest management expertise and a team of technical specialists.

Read More
Latest Stories
foxglove-aphid

November 29, 2016

How Greenhouse Growers Can Manage The Foxglove Aphid

Recent research is shedding new light on the foxglove aphid. Understanding host plants, identification, and biology will help growers deal with this pest.

Read More
growth-products-catalog

November 19, 2016

Growth Products Launches New Catalog Of Horticulture Bi…

The full-color resource guide provides detailed product descriptions and rate charts for all of the company’s bioinnovations, liquid fertilizers, micronutrients, and biological control products.

Read More

November 1, 2016

Bayer Production Ornamentals Hits The Market With 17 Pr…

November 1 officially marked the launch of the Bayer Production Ornamentals business, serving professional growers in greenhouses and nurseries across the U.S. Its comprehensive portfolio of innovative product solutions and support includes product and pest management expertise and a team of technical specialists.

Read More

October 25, 2016

Why Logic May Be The Best Defense Against Q-Biotype Whi…

Greenhouse Grower Editor Laura Drotleff says while you may feel you're in a lose-lose situation with pest control, there are some solutions that can help.

Read More
eric smith Biosafe

October 13, 2016

BioSafe’s New Hort Sales Rep Says Water Regulation And …

Eric Smith, BioSafe Systems’ New Horticultural Technical Sales Representative, has several years of experience that he says will help him when working with growers on critical issues facing them.

Read More
weeds

October 8, 2016

Sign Up For The University Of Florida’s Weed Management…

Participants in the course, which starts October 24, will learn how to manage all aspects of weed management in greenhouses, including weed identification, developing herbicide programs, and the latest non-chemical methods of weed control.

Read More
Downy mildew lesions on light coleus cultivars feature

October 4, 2016

Crop Protection Manufacturers Detail 2017 Early Order D…

Greenhouse Grower asked crop protection product manufacturers to send us the details for their 2017 Early Order Discount Programs and ongoing rebate programs, to provide you with a compiled knowledge resource of all discount offers at a time when you're making decisions for 2017.

Read More
tomato spotted wilt virus angular-necrosis-of-leaves-and-plant-stunting

September 28, 2016

Tips For Managing Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus In Mums

According to a report from Michigan State University, symptoms of tomato spotted wilt virus on chrysanthemum include yellow blotching and rings, necrotic lesions, and stem collapse.

Read More
cannabis-crop-protection

September 27, 2016

Washington State Outlines Pesticide Criteria For Cannab…

The state has also compiled a searchable list of pesticides that fit the criteria for use on marijuana.

Read More
Orius_June 2015

September 25, 2016

Peace Tree Farm Hosting Biocontrols Event In October

“Advanced Greenhouse Biocontrols for Ornamental and Vegetable Producers” will feature advice from biocontrol authorities Lloyd Traven and Suzanne Wainwright-Evans.

Read More
steve-larson-bayer

September 23, 2016

Bayer Continues Its Shift Into The Ornamentals Market

The company has announced its 12 distributor partners, and also recently named Steve Larson — formerly with Color Spot Nurseries — as its ornamental specialist.

Read More
Biocontrols and beneficials absolutely can be used in outdoor production, with the use of banker plant systems

September 19, 2016

Learn About Biological Controls In The Greenhouse In A …

Michigan State University Extension (MSU) and Kansas State University Research and Extension are collaborating on a pre-recorded online course on “Biological Control for Greenhouse Growers.”

Read More
Bees And Pesticides

August 23, 2016

Studies Offer Conflicting Views On Neonic Effect On Bee…

How much exposure to neonicotinoids do bees need before their health becomes affected? That’s the question two research teams look to answer.

Read More
Chrysanthemum Aphid

August 22, 2016

How To ID And Manage Black Aphids In Chrysanthemums

Growers in Michigan have recently been reporting a higher presence of this pest. Here are some tips on how to control it.

Read More
Cannabis Crop Protection

August 22, 2016

Cannabis Group Stays Focused On Consistent Standards Fo…

The Foundation of Cannabis Unified Standards (FOCUS), is an independent, third-party, not-for-profit organization, is in the process of developing cannabis-specific standards for everything from cultivation and extraction to packaging and retail.

Read More
Leaf Septoria In Cannabis

August 21, 2016

Three Diseases To Watch For In Cannabis Production

The development of root rot, powdery mildew, and leaf septoria can damage cannabis to the point of complete crop loss.

Read More
Greenhouse Whitefly

August 18, 2016

Vestaron Planning For More Research And Development Of …

On the heels of launching Spear-T, its first bioinsecticide, Vestaron has received additional financing that will be used to develop new products with new modes of action.

Read More
BioWorks Mycotrol

August 17, 2016

New Organic Mycoinsecticide From BioWorks Now Registere…

BioWorks’ Mycotrol can be used to manage whitefly, thrips, aphids, and other insects in greenhouses and nurseries.

Read More
[gravityform id="35" title="false" description="false"]