Growers Attending Biocontrols East Conference Got a First-Hand Look at Others’ Hands-On Experience

Greenhouse growers attending the Biocontrols East Conference in Orlando, FL, October 11-13, got a real-life look at how biocontrols can be successfully implemented into production during the greenhouse breakout session, a two-hour course with three talks focusing on integrated pest management (IPM) in a controlled environment.

Integrating Predatory Mites With Miticides in Greenhouse Production

The first talk, “Biocontrol: The Grower’s Perspective,” was a tag team effort by Chris Schlegel, Head Grower at young plant producer D.S. Cole Growers in New Hampshire, and Carol Glenister, Founder, IPM Laboratories. The two women work together often on IPM strategies and discussed how D.S. Cole Growers has integrated predatory mite release with chemical controls to control spider mites, thrips, fungus gnats, and whiteflies.

“We were throwing every beneficial we could at white flies, and then we started applying pollen for swirskii population,” Schlegel said. “It cost a lot less to blow pollen around a greenhouse. But timing is everything – it has to be fresh to feed the population.”

Microbials Are Your Friends…With Benefits

Next, Bioworks’ Technical Sales Manager Chris Hayes walked the group through the dos and don’ts of using microbes as biocontrol agents to control insects and pathogens. In his lively presentation, “Micro Friends with Macro Benefits,” aimed at helping growers gain a better understanding of microbials and what they should be asking their biocontrols suppliers, Hayes outlined how microbials work, how to use them effectively as a preventative versus a curative, and tips for using microbes with traditional chemicals.

“Speed is important, since it needs to out-perform the pathogen,” Hayes said. “Some fungi attack other fungi. Some are just bullies that outperform. If you’re going to use a biological, use the appropriate one. Make sure they will work in your environment. If will grow only in your soil, look at the environment, and look at compatibility with not only your chemicals, but all your other inputs, including your water source.”

Aphidius and You – Managing Aphids With Parasitic Wasps

In the final session of the day, Grower Rich Densel of Van Vugt Greenhouses based in New Jersey shared his practical knowledge on how to use the Aphidius family of parasitic wasps in an effective greenhouse IPM program. For more than 10 years, Densel has been using the Aphidius banker system to control aphids on a wide number of common greenhouse crops. He revealed some trade secrets on scouting for aphids, successfully raising Aphidius using an aphid banker plant system, how to deal with hot spots, and best practices for integrating insecticides with Aphidius for comprehensive pest control.

“One way to look for aphids, is to use the sparrows in the greenhouse – if they’re pecking away in a certain spot, you may find aphids there,” Densel said. “I thought one bay was completely clean, but I noticed the sparrows were eating there and I found them. Luckily, the Aphidius were already parasitizing them, so there was no reason to get an itchy finger and spray. If you have a hot spot, there are several things you can do – let Aphidius do its job, remove the plants and quarantine them, release lacewing larvae, or spot spray or drench – but keep Aphidius in mind. Compatible doesn’t equal harmless – be sure to keep spray to a minimum to reduce damage to your investment in the wasps.”

Join Greenhouse Grower and Meister Media Worldwide at the Biocontrols West Conference, March 7-9 in San Diego, CA. Stay tuned to the Biocontrols Conference website for more details on the event and location.

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