IR-4: A Pest Management Resource For Growers

The USDA APHIS Inspection Station at the Miami Airport was part of a tour that took place prior to the 2013 Biennial IR-4 Ornamental Horticulture Workshop.

Almost 40 years ago, IR-4 (Interregional Research Project Number 4) began serving the ornamental horticulture industry, helping to facilitate the registration of pest management tools. IR-4 does this primarily by surveying growers about their pest management issues and then hosting workshops to review survey results and set priorities for the coming years.

Most recently, IR-4 coordinated a meeting of researchers and industry members on pollinator health and neonicotinoid chemistries to start a discussion on the needed research. The next step will be to get the outcomes from that workshop out to the public.

“While making science-based decisions is very important, how we communicate scientific results is equally important,” says Cristi Palmer, the ornamental horticulture program manager of IR-4.

With the outcomes from that workshop, IR-4 can aid in the development of data that is needed in the ornamental horticulture industry.

A Resource For Specialty Crop Growers

Formed in the 1960s, IR-4 was initially created to serve the edible crops industry, because at the time, growers of specialty crops such as lettuce and small fruits didn’t have much to apply to crops to manage pests, diseases and weeds. In the early 1970s, the ornamental horticulture industry found itself facing the same issue. There weren’t enough tools to manage thrips, botrytis or various weeds, Palmer says.

The IR-4 ornamental horticulture program was started in 1977 with a focus on non-edibles, both in greenhouses and in nurseries. The organization aids the registration of sustainable pest management technology for specialty crops by developing data to support new EPA tolerances and labeled product uses. IR-4 works with researchers nationwide to conduct efficacy research on tools, as well as crop safety research.

“Without those data, many chemicals would be registered only for major food crops, which means that important and effective new chemistries would be unavailable to greenhouse and nursery growers,” says Lin Schmale of the Society of American Florists (SAF).

Growers Help Guide Research

Every other year, IR-4 conducts its Grower Extension Survey as a way to get a pulse on the industry and determine what problems are not being addressed by the current tools, Palmer says.

“Sometimes the responses that we get back are on the most recent issue the growers faced. This survey helps guide our research,” Palmer says.

The results are shared at a biennial workshop, which is attended by a mix of researchers, growers, trade representatives, like Schmale, regional field coordinators and representatives from the crop protection industry.

The group looks at the survey results, as well as which projects have carried over from previous years and which tools might be available to screen.

“There are not always new tools available to expand our knowledge base on any given project,” Palmer says. “For example, with bacteria, IR-4’s done a lot of research, and we came to the conclusion a couple of years ago that the best products were the current standards, the copper-based materials.”

Once research is gathered, IR-4 compiles all project information together on its website. Each pest or disease will have a project summary that encompasses all of the research that’s been done on that particular pest, Palmer says.

“We then take that information and provide it to the crop protection industry so they can update their labels, or write new labels,” she says.

IR-4 will work with any crop protection company that has tools that need to be registered, from larger companies like BASF, Bayer and Syngenta, to the smaller companies who may only have one tool to develop.

Project summaries are posted on IR-4’s website and available to the public.

Four Decades Of Success

IR-4 efforts have led to 35,000 ornamental horticulture crop uses since the ornamental horticulture program was started. In addition, there have been more than 23,000 studies conducted, more than 100 registered products and nearly 32,000 completed trials. And just in the last 10 years, the program has contributed data to the registration of 72 different products.

“IR-4 is a very strong, and all-too-often unsung supporter of the green industry and our growers,” Schmale says. “IR-4 research has supported the availability of over half of the crop protection tools (traditional chemicals, biopesticides and other reduced risk materials) that are now labeled for nursery and greenhouse use.”

One of many examples of how IR-4’s ornamental horticulture program has helped the industry is the creation of a whitefly management plan.

After the introduction of the Q-biotype whitefly in 2004, IR-4 began helping to screen new materials.

“Even though the B-biotype had been present in the U.S. for many years, the cotton and vegetable industries were alarmed that the newly found Q-biotype could cause them great economic damage,” Schmale says.

SAF helped lead the formation of a taskforce, including representatives of the floral and nursery, cotton and vegetable industries, scientists and regulatory officials, Schmale says.

“(Palmer) was one of the key scientists involved, and was instrumental in helping to put together the whitefly management program,” she says.

IR-4 helped identify some new materials that were fairly promising, including Judo and Safari, and developed an overall whitefly management plan that growers would be able to use.

Palmer says the plan was to help growers manage whiteflies from the cutting stage, all the way to the finish, with an eye toward resistance management, as well as just being able to manage pests.

“The whitefly management program continues to guide growers in recommended chemical rotation strategies to avoid development of whitefly resistance to chemicals important to ornamental horticulture, and also important to the cotton and vegetable industries,” Schmale says. Visit to see the plan.

A New Focus On Pollinators

December’s workshop on pollinators was an entirely new type of event — not one of IR-4’s standard priority-setting workshops.

“This workshop was focused on the impact of the systemic products for pollinators as it relates to ornamental horticulture production,” Palmer says.

Like the standard workshops, there were individuals from various areas of the industry present, as well as an entomologist focused on understanding pollinators and scientists involved in analytical chemistry and understanding how to do residue analysis of products.

“Our mission is to help grow sets of tools, and if the tools need to be assessed in a different way, IR-4 can help guide people in how to assess those tools by having meetings like this workshop,” Palmer says.

She adds the workshop helped to develop a much better understanding of the risk assessment process and the types of data that are needed to go into developing risk assessment for the ornamental horticulture industry.

“One of the interesting things is that honey bees are the model pollinator for the EPA. Even though the ornamental horticulture community doesn’t use honey bees for their pollinator services, that’s the model pollinator all of the risk assessments need to be based upon,” Palmer says. “Bumble bees would be much more useful, because they’re the pollinators that might come into contact with any residues potentially coming from our crops. But, all of our studies need to be done in the context of honey bees.”

Another outcome of the workshop was the understanding that, while IR-4 can assist with the hazard side of the risk assessment equation, the exposure side is going to be trickier, because out of the thousands of crops produced by the industry, not all of them are attractive to pollinators, Palmer says.

“We need to have a better idea of the percentage of crops we produce that are attractive to pollinators, and therefore would present a risk to the bumble bees or to the pollinators in general,” she says. “That’s a number that needs to go into the equation. Right now, we don’t know what that number is.”


Topics: ,

Leave a Reply

More From Crop Inputs...
Dallas Johnson Greenhouses

April 14, 2018

Kemin Forms Distribution Partnership With Plant Products

Under the agreement, Plant Products will be a Kemin Crop Technologies’ distributor in the northeastern U.S.

Read More

April 13, 2018

Dümmen Orange Debuts New Rooting Technology

Basewell bare-root cuttings feature advanced root development and no growing media, which allows products to ship to growers from off-shore production locations, ready to transplant directly into the finish container.

Read More

April 10, 2018

New Tool Helps Greenhouse Growers Analyze Irrigation Water Quality

The University of Connecticut and University of Florida have partnered to launch the WaterQual tool as part of the CleanWateR3 research program.

Read More
Latest Stories

March 18, 2018

New Soil Amendment From Kemin Promotes More Efficient N…

Valena, a soil amendment sourced from a proprietary strain of Euglena gracilis (algae) rich in beta-glucan, is designed to support the growth of healthy and strong plants.

Read More

March 13, 2018

Greenhouse Biocontrol Goes Mainstream

Biological control has moved into the mainstream for greenhouse growers. And the timing couldn’t be better, as consumer demands for more sustainable production methods for the plants they buy are moving back upstream.

Read More

February 11, 2018

Bayer Has New Turf and Ornamentals Global Market Manage…

Jose Milan will be focused on helping growers deal with regulatory issues, while promoting the environmental benefits the ornamentals industry offers.

Read More
Belchim Crop Protection

January 24, 2018

Engage Agro Now Doing Business as Belchim Crop Protecti…

For more than 30 years, Belchim has been providing agricultural customers internationally, including greenhouse growers, with more than 100 well-known products.

Read More

December 13, 2017

New Webinars Address Effective Propagation Techniques

e-Gro, an online clearing house for alerts about greenhouse disease, insect, environmental, physiological, and nutritional disorders, recently posted two new propagation-related webinars on YouTube.

Read More

December 4, 2017

Raker-Roberta’s Young Plants Debuts as Roberta’s Finali…

On December 1, Eric Wallien of Roberta’s Inc. in Waldron, IN, officially purchased C. Raker & Sons in Litchfield, MI. The new identity of the company is now Raker-Roberta’s Young Plants, according to a Dec. 1 letter to Raker’s customers, suppliers, and business partners from Vice President Susie Raker-Zimmerman. “There have been minimal changes in management and we will be providing the same products and services on which we have built our reputation in the industry,” Raker-Zimmerman said in the letter, which also announced the name change and new logo. The sale of C. Raker & Sons was announced in September . A series of events affecting Raker’s financial situation caused the need for the operation to find an alternate solution. Roberta’s had been a customer of Raker’s since 2011, and the fourth generation, family owned grower-retailer was a fan of Raker’s commitment to quality. The agreement to purchase C. […]

Read More
Biocontrols in a Greenhouse

November 27, 2017

4 Opportunities to Educate Yourself on IPM Practices in…

The Michigan State University Extension floriculture team has developed four greenhouse integrated pest management sessions that will be presented at the 2017 Michigan Greenhouse Growers Expo in Grand Rapids, MI.

Read More
Parasitized aphid mummies, ladybird beetle larvae

November 11, 2017

OHP Announces Two New Ornamental Pest Management Tools

OHP recently added two new crop protection tools to its profile of biosolutions: a biological insecticide, and an ornamental fungicide.

Read More
OHP Biosolutions

September 26, 2017

OHP Acquired by AMVAC, But Will Continue to Operate As …

AMVAC has acquired OHP and its chemical and biological crop protection solutions for the greenhouse and nursery markets. The deal will close in early October, and there will be no changes to staff, products, or operations.

Read More
Hydroponics Michigan State Web

September 14, 2017

Hydroponic and Aquaponics Growers Face Possible Loss of…

The National Organic Standards Board is considering recommending that USDA revoke the ability for hydroponic, aquaponic, aeroponic, and other container-based growing methods to be certified organic, according to an update from growers at Upstart University.

Read More

July 7, 2017

New Tools for Your Crop Protection Arsenal in the Green…

Over the past few months, crop protection companies have developed several new products designed to help you manage a wide range of insect and disease pests. Here’s a look at some of them.

Read More
Yellow Stick Card for thrips

July 5, 2017

Tips From a Top 100 Grower for Effective Thrips Control

A combination of conventional materials and biologicals can help provide season-long management of thrips in hanging baskets.

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

May 30, 2017

BioWorks Launches New Biofungicide for Botrytis Control

BotryStop was developed for the control of pathogens such as Botrytis, Sclerotinia, and Monilinia in several crops, including ornamentals.

Read More
Adult Aphidoletes in web - Feature

May 27, 2017

How to Overcome Biocontrol Challenges by Thinking Outsi…

With a little creative thinking and adjustments to your strategy, you can overcome your greenhouse biocontrol challenges.

Read More
Cannabis Seedling

May 20, 2017

Biocontrols: A Practical Option for Cannabis

With limited options for chemical pest control, cannabis growers are incorporating biocontrols into their integrated pest management programs. More education will cement this solution as a viable option in this emerging market.

Read More
Christmas Cactus

May 18, 2017

How to Increase Branching and Flower Bud Production of …

Based on research completed at North Carolina State University, here are some methods for increasing branching and flower bud production of Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera bridgessii).

Read More
Herbicide Drift in the Greenhouse

May 15, 2017

How to Identify and Mitigate Herbicide Contamination in…

Herbicides applied off-site or within the greenhouse can significantly damage ornamental and edible crops. Beth Scheckelhoff, an Extension Educator for Greenhouse Systems at The Ohio State University, provides some examples and basic recommendations for mitigating and preventing herbicide contamination and injury in the future.

Read More

May 4, 2017

Bayer Altus Update: Neonic Insect Control Alternative N…

Altus, a butenolide class insecticide with the active ingredient flupyradifurone, will be available beginning May 1, and is labeled for greenhouse and nursery use on ornamental plants, vegetable transplants, and indoor vegetable production.

Read More