Better Pest Management by Richard Lindquist

Better Pest Management by Richard Lindquist

It’s hard enough to remember yesterday at my age, let alone to predict the future–especially a future 25 years out. As I thought about things like long-range weather forecasts, preseason sports predictions and pre-primary predictions of who the presidential candidates would be, my confidence returned. These predictions–by experts–are for periods as short as three days and as long as a year or more. And those who predict the weather, sports outcomes and the next president are frequently wrong.

I might be just as wrong about an even longer period of time, so here are some fearless predictions of events that probably will not happen and why.

Aphids, whiteflies, thrips, botrytis, downy mildews, powdery mildews, root rots and more pests will all disappear. Not gonna happen! The same general group of insects–mite and plant pathogen pests–will continue to entertain the next generation, just as they have for past and present generations. As long as there are well-fertilized and irrigated crops continuously produced in enclosed structures, those pests will be there. Sure, the top 10 pests might change somewhat, but the same core group will hang around. If the worldwide movement of plants and commercialization of new plant species continues, new pests will magically appear to further complicate things.

There will be five to 10 new products in different mode of action groups brought to market every year. Wrong. New conventional pesticide product development will remain slow. Patents on products will continue to expire. Broad spectrum products will disappear. Nearly all pesticides will be generic, offering numerous choices among product names–not modes of action. Many new products will be developed and marketed by smaller specialty companies and be biologically based such as microbials and plant extracts.

Pesticide resistance will not be a problem. Ha! Pesticide resistance will no doubt increase. New combination products and exotic tank mixes will help for a while. But if U.S. greenhouse production continues to gather in warmer areas or if climate change keeps warming things up everywhere, insects and mites will have more generations per year, and some warm weather plant pathogens (e.g. Erwinia, Phytophthora) will also cause more problems. Resistance will be the norm, not the exception.

There will be a huge increase in federal and state research funding to deal with everything mentioned. Oh, never mind. It was just a dream. As in the past, there will not be enough money or people to deal with new and existing pests. Some of the current funding sources–IR-4, American Floral Endowment, Horticultural Research Institute, the International Cut Flower Growers Association–may still be around in 25 years. But there isn’t enough money and people to go around now, and there’s no reason to expect this to change in the future. Do more with less as we were told back in our university days.

So, is it all gloom and doom? Maybe not. Future products will be more compatible with biological controls, allowing (or forcing) increased uses of integrated pest management programs. Environmental controls will be a major part of such programs. Many growers have been proactive in developing integrated systems to help manage pesticide resistance. Many more will follow.

In pest management, one size does not fit all. I certainly hope that self-appointed groups who suggest what growers can and cannot use to manage pests on their crops will go away. It’s not going to get any easier to produce quality plants at a profit in the future, so why take away perfectly useful–and registered–tools based on some I’m-greener-than-you-are club membership? Use all the tools available and, of course, use them properly.

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