Last year, Syngenta launched a program that offered growers something unique — a complete pest control package that partnered Bioline Biological Control Agents with Syngenta Crop Protection products. The response to the launch has gone well, says Barner Jones, manager of Bioline Business Development, which he says directly relates to growers’ response and acceptance of biocontrols in the greenhouse industry.
It makes sense, as growers are slowly migrating away from one-size-fits-all solutions like repeated insecticide use, and embracing integrated solutions that encompass a wide variety of methods from biocontrols to chemicals and common-sense integrated pest management practices.
Grower-Focused Products Offer Solutions
Although Bioline’s focus is on beneficials, the company hasn’t lost track of the bigger pest control picture.
“We see biologicals as one of many elements in an integrated control program, so our attitude is not to try and control every single problem a grower has with biologicals when other methods might be a better fit,” says Dan Cahn, president of Syngenta Bioline. “The important thing is what works best for the grower.”
Cahn says using biocontrols is not as simple as replacing one control method with another. There is a lot to know and possibly in different areas than growers are used to, like pest biology and identification. Every grower has a different set of problems and a distinctive approach to pest management, which necessitates products and management practices that fit growers’ needs.
Bioline’s packaging systems, including blister packs, water-resistant controlled-release sachets and buglines, are examples of easy-to-use products that have emerged in response to growers’ production problems and unique growing conditions.
Case in point, Bioline’s Bugline, which evolved out of European growers’ need to be able to apply beneficials to long expanses of crops with limited access. Bugline comes in long strips that can be applied with an overhead boom. Another example is Bioline’s mini-sachets, which are designed for hanging baskets, where more release points are needed because plants aren’t touching. Still another is the water-resistant packaging on the Gemini sachet that won’t shred under the repeated stress of overhead watering.
Syngenta is constantly working on changing and improving the formulations of its Bioline sachets, Cahn says. The company is looking at longer and shorter release times to offer growers more options in the future.
Jones adds that the company has completed several product enhancements for 2014 and is still hard at work on new developments.
“Moving into 2015, one of the products we are working on is our Swirskiline in a long-release sachet, so growers would get six weeks of release and over the course of time release about 1,000 predatory mites into the crops,” Jones says. “We have also done some slight packaging modifications to our Eretline for whitefly control to make it more resistant to water. With these modifications and future changes coming down the pipeline, we are making our products easier for growers to use.”
Effective Biocontrol Use Requires A Different Mindset
Users say biocontrols require a different mindset, namely patience and a strong commitment to scouting on growers’ part if they want to be successful at using them.
As Jones puts it, growers need to move away from the spray-and-pray approach and move toward the apply-monitor-apply-monitor approach.
Lucas Greenhouses has been using Bioline mites for control of thrips on calla lilies, as well as some hanging baskets of ivy geraniums and seed impatiens that are housed in the same greenhouse. It initially starts the season with a Flagship drench and a fungicide drench, and then maintains a steady regime of fungicide treatments throughout production.
On the insect side, Lucas broadcasts Amblyline cu (Amblyseius cucumeris) and some Hypoline (Hypoaspis) over the plants with a modified leaf blower for the first few weeks of production. Then it moves to bi-weekly applications. This integrated tactic has worked well since the operation started using biocontrols two years ago, says Jason Szymanski, grower trial manager for Lucas Greenhouses.
“Using biocontrols requires a little more time,” Szymanski says. “There is more scouting involved and you need to have some patience in getting everything worked out and adjusted to your growing environment. Our Bioline representative was invaluable in helping us to get everything set up, place orders and keep track of costs.”
Raymond Cloyd, an entomology professor and Extension specialist at Kansas State University, who has used Bioline nematodes for his research with fungus gnat control, also recommends establishing a good scouting program to monitor pest populations and to see if beneficials are working or not.
“Scouting takes commitment and due diligence, but the pay-off is worth it because quality control is so important to success with biologicals,” Cloyd says.
Cloyd also advocates using biocontrols right away, upon delivery, to maximize their performance and ability to suppress pest populations. As products are stored longer-term, mortality becomes an issue. Shipping can also affect what condition bugs arrive in, which is why Cloyd is in favor of checking beneficials upon arrival to make sure they are still alive.
Tim Flowers, area manager at Disney Horticulture, has used Bioline products with success in both the loose form and as sachets for control of thrips, spider mites and mealy bugs on all types of ornamentals and annuals. He says his company chose Bioline because it was looking for a supplier that could ship overnight. Flowers finds it advantageous to receive the bugs the next day so they are active, healthy and hungry.
Start Small To Avoid Frustration
The growers we talked with said there will be less frustration for growers who are new to biocontrols or just getting started if they begin small and maintain integrated practices, rather than going full steam ahead into using only biocontrols. They also suggest partnering with a trustworthy source for information and not being afraid to ask questions. Finally, all agreed that the time and effort it takes to start using biocontrols is definitely worth the investment when it comes to doing something that benefits the environment.