How To Transition To Biocontrols In The Greenhouse

Amblyline cu (Amblyseius cucumeris), part of Syngenta's Bioline product line

In this year’s Top 100 Growers survey, we asked how many of the largest operations in the country are using biological controls, and how much they’re using them.

We found that nine Top 100 Growers say they are using mostly biocontrols with some chemical controls. How long have they been managing pests and diseases this way and how did they make the transition from traditional chemical controls to biocontrols? We talked to Post Gardens’ Bill Tuinier and Grower Direct Farms’ Adam Van Wingerden to find out.

Grower Direct Farms: A Gradual Shift

For Grower Direct Farms, the transition to biological controls started five years ago when growers there began experimenting on a small scale to determine the products’ pros and cons. (For an explanation of the different types of biocontrols, see the Biocontrol Glossary.)

“In order to completely evaluate them, we needed to transition the whole operation,” says Van Wingerden. “The main impetus for changing was increased resistance to chemicals, increasing costs for chemicals, the regulatory environment and business disruptions in peak shipping due to pests.”

A main production difference that Van Wingerden cites as part of a biocontrol program is scouting. Having biologicals in place requires that scouting measures are followed more diligently. Growers fill out tracking sheets weekly to identify population trends and hotspots. With the time and resource investment required (he says these programs do cost more than traditional controls) Van Wingerden acknowledges that each greenhouse must determine how much it can spend on biocontrols and which crops can be treated with which products.

“We have found that BCAs are not able to provide the level of control we need on certain pests,” he says. For example, the operation has had trouble controlling aphids exclusively with biological control agents (BCAs), so the control strategy for fuchsia and calibrachoa has needed adjustment.

“In addition, fungicide compatibility with BCAs is an issue.”

To combat this compatibility problem, Grower Direct Farms is using fewer BCAs and more biopesticides, which are not affected by fungicides. Van Wingerden says the operation uses the Syngenta Bioline system as well as nematodes from Becker Underwood.

The operation’s experiences have been positive, so what will the future hold for Grower Direct Farms as far as biocontrols go? The learning curve continues, but for this grower, it probably includes a mix of BCAs, insect growth regulators and biopesticides.

“We believe that more work will continue to be done in these areas as well as fungicide compatibility to ensure success without harming the environment or BCAs that we’ve released,” Van Wingerden says.

Post Gardens: Scouting And Prevention

After a successful first attempt at controlling whitefly on poinsettia with help from Koppert seven years ago, Post Gardens has increased its use of biological controls. Post’s Bill Tuinier says biocontrols don’t eradicate insects, but they manage the populations to the point that pest counts are low enough to not cause damage.

“You can’t get worried about seeing a thrip,” Tuinier says. “But if you see three on a gerbera daisy, now you have a problem.” As with Grower Direct Farms, Tuinier says the new program has required the operation to be more diligent about scouting. Yellow sticky cards are moved around the greenhouse to reveal where the problem hotspot areas are. When a hotspot is found, that area is treated with a traditional control, while the rest of the house continues to be treated only with biologicals.

“The big difficulty is monitoring and scouting for the pests,” Tuinier says. “You can’t let up on that.” Cards are placed at one per 5,000 square feet and a spreadsheet carefully tracks hot spots by greenhouse zone and card number. Tuinier estimates that scouts are reading 100 cards per week.

“We try to leave one person in charge of that,” Tuinier says. “So that’s all that person does — take care of the cards.”

Another tip from Tuinier: Biocontrols work better in the winter when greenhouses are closed up tight and insects can’t enter through vents or fans. In the summer, there may be the need to use a traditional control to eradicate a problem and then start over again with biocontrols.

The use of biocontrols has eliminated the use of traditional controls in some instances. For example, Post uses Rootshield, which is for crops that are prone to root problems, like Easter lilies and poinsettias. Since Post started using Rootshield seven years ago, the operation hasn’t used fungicides on either crop. Tuinier says that Actinovate and Cease provide good control of Botrytis and powdery mildew.

Nemasys has also been a huge help to controls thrips larvae in soil.

“We typically use Nemasys on all of our cuttings and plugs,” Tuinier says. “We pretty much treat everything we put in the greenhouse with Nemasys, just so that it has protective nematodes on the soil. If there’s any larvae from thrips, it helps knock them down. That has been a huge help with the whole program.”

These insights into the best use of biocontrols are the a result of experience with the products. “There is a learning curve, but you have your traditional controls to fall back on,” Tuinier says. It took a couple of years before the growers at Post felt they had a handle on their program, but Tuinier says using biological controls is all for a good cause.

“You can justify doing it and you can justify not doing it. But ultimately, we’re not protecting the environment if we’re not trying to do it,” he says. “And we’re not protecting future generations. As far as our employees, we’re protecting them a lot more. They feel safer using biologicals than insecticides. It’s not all about money. It’s also about protecting your employees.”

Biocontrols Glossary

Here’s an explanation each type of biocontrol.

Biological Control: A method of controlling pests and diseases with other living organisms

Biological Control Agents (BCAs): Natural enemies of insect pests, including predators, parasitoids and pathogens

Biopesticides: Control products that are derived from natural materials, such as animals, plants, bacteria and minerals

Insect Growth Regulators: Products that prevent insects from reaching a reproductive stage, which reduces pest populations

Leave a Reply

More From Crop Inputs...
Jim Zablocki, Plant Prod

February 5, 2016

Sign Up For A Webinar On Using Plant Nutrition To Improve Quality

The webinar takes place March 2, and covers how leading growers are using plant nutrition to minimize costs, reduce the number of factors they need to worry about, and lessen environmental impacts.

Read More
Biocontrols Conference and Expo 2016

February 4, 2016

Biocontrols 2016 Conference Offers Insights And Learning Opportunities For Greenhouse Growers

The Biocontrols 2016 Conference & Expo, which takes place March 3-4, 2016, in Monterey, CA, brings together growers, pest control advisers, suppliers, researchers, and other segments of the industry to share the latest information on biochemicals, microbial pesticides, and beneficials, and help you put biocontrols to work in your operation.

Read More
Fertilizer Rates Feature Image

January 29, 2016

Bioworks Releases New Higher Nitrogen Fertilizer For Ornamental Crops

Verdanta N-Vita 9-4-3 promotes foliar growth and features a slow release process, making nutrients available for a longer period of time.

Read More
Latest Stories
Jim Zablocki, Plant Prod

February 5, 2016

Sign Up For A Webinar On Using Plant Nutrition To Impro…

The webinar takes place March 2, and covers how leading growers are using plant nutrition to minimize costs, reduce the number of factors they need to worry about, and lessen environmental impacts.

Read More
Biocontrols Conference and Expo 2016

February 4, 2016

Biocontrols 2016 Conference Offers Insights And Learnin…

The Biocontrols 2016 Conference & Expo, which takes place March 3-4, 2016, in Monterey, CA, brings together growers, pest control advisers, suppliers, researchers, and other segments of the industry to share the latest information on biochemicals, microbial pesticides, and beneficials, and help you put biocontrols to work in your operation.

Read More
Fertilizer Rates Feature Image

January 29, 2016

Bioworks Releases New Higher Nitrogen Fertilizer For Or…

Verdanta N-Vita 9-4-3 promotes foliar growth and features a slow release process, making nutrients available for a longer period of time.

Read More
Primula acaulis, Botrytis, Disease, Griffin Greenhouse Supplies

January 19, 2016

EPA Approves Syngenta’s Mural Fungicide For Use On Seve…

Mural contains two active ingredients and is designed to provide broad-spectrum control of a wide range of root and foliar diseases.

Read More

January 12, 2016

EPA Releases Preliminary Risk Assessment For Imidaclopr…

The assessment, which will soon be open for public comment, indicates that imidacloprid potentially poses risk to hives when the pesticide comes in contact with certain crops that attract pollinators.

Read More
Sustane Research Greenhouse 2015

January 7, 2016

Fertilizer Manufacturers Aim To Deliver Sustainable Sol…

Industry experts discuss the latest trends to help ensure 2016 is your best year yet.

Read More
Vestaron

December 30, 2015

Vestaron’s Spear Bioinsecticide No Longer Carries Bee T…

Following a review that shows it has no detrimental effect on honeybees, EPA has removed the bee toxicity warning statement from Spear.

Read More
How To Overcome Downy Mildew Spread On Impatiens

December 16, 2015

Syngenta Launches Two New Fungicides For The Ornamental…

Solatenol and oxathiapiprolin, each with unique active ingredients, should be available to growers in early 2016.

Read More
Biocontrols Conference and Expo 2016

December 15, 2015

Mark Your Calendars For The Second Annual Biocontrols U…

Produced by Meister Media Worldwide in cooperation with the Biopesticide Industry Alliance, the event brings together growers, pest control advisors, researchers, biocontrols suppliers, and everyone who plays a role in this crucial element of integrated pest management programs.

Read More
Gerbera Yellow Sticky Card

December 10, 2015

Michigan State Offers Free Download Of Bulletin Coverin…

The new fact sheet provides photos and lists commercially available beneficial insects, their target insects, and key facts about biocontrol agents.

Read More
Landmark Open-Bottom Tray

December 8, 2015

Landmark Plastic Addresses Retailer Capillary Mat Requi…

With the availability of water being the number one global risk based on its overall impact to society, it’s no surprise that big name retailers like Walmart, The Home Depot and Lowe’s have taken aggressive steps to reduce their water consumption at store level. More specifically, for the Spring 2016 selling season, Walmart has mandated that its horticultural partners be capillary mat compliant. This means that plants typically watered top-down will now be required to be watered through a sophisticated watering mat that helps saturate the plants from the bottom up. To help growers embrace this new requirement, Landmark Plastic has developed a new trade gallon tray with an open bottom that enables plants to be watered from the roots up. This not only helps utilize water more efficiently, but also helps retailers reduce labor costs associated with the task of watering. “We’ve made it our business to solve problems […]

Read More
Arthij van der Veer Feature image

December 7, 2015

Sustainability Is Key To Your Operation’s Future

During Greenhouse Grower's 2015 Top 100 Growers Breakfast at Cultivate'15, Arthij ven der Veer of MPS (More Profitable Sustainability) discussed crop protection trends in Europe, Latin America, and around the world, and what to expect on the horizon.

Read More
Bee Vectoring Technology Bumblebee

December 1, 2015

New Crop Protection Solution Uses Bees To Deliver Bioco…

The new system from Bee Vectoring Technology incorporated a powdered crop protection material into the lid of commercial bumblebee hives. Bees pick up the product when they leave the hive and deposit it on every plant they visit.

Read More
Stockosorb Crystals_with water Agriculture leaf (Evonick)

November 21, 2015

9 Sustainable Growing Media Products For Superior Green…

Manufacturers are delivering new growing media products to help growers attempt to minimize their footprint without sacrificing quality. Here are nine new products to consider for your greenhouse operation.

Read More
Suzanne Wainwright-Evans

November 16, 2015

Real-World Biocontrols Trends From The Buglady

During ,em>Greenhouse Grower's Top 100 Breakfast at Cultivate'15, Suzanne Wainwright-Evans of Buglady Consulting discussed trends in biocontrols, including what she has seen from breeders, growers and even public gardens.

Read More

October 13, 2015

Bayer CropScience And OHP To End Marketing Partnership …

The move allows Bayer to market its ornamental products directly to greenhouses and nurseries, although OHP will still service a limited line of Bayer products.

Read More
RISE 2015 Governing Board

October 13, 2015

RISE Annual Meeting Celebrates 25 Years of Industry Adv…

The annual meeting for RISE (Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment), held the last week of September in Orlando, was more than just presentations, awards and the election of new officers. It was also a celebration of 25 years as a leading advocate for the specialty pesticide and fertilizer industries.

Read More

October 9, 2015

New Biochemical Miticide Is Designed To Combat Varroa M…

EPA recently registered Potassium Salts of Hops Beta Acids (K-HBAs), which is intended to fit into a rotation program to battle resistance.

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