Beginning With Biocontrols

1) Ask an expert. Make sure you are working with somebody who has the training and experience to help you create and implement a successful program. Talk to other growers with successful programs and get recommendations.

2) Know your spray records. “This is critical for finish growers,” Wainwright-Evans says. “If they buy in plants and don’t know what has been sprayed, we don’t know where we can start with the bios. The more young plant producers who get on board with bios the better, because even if the finish grower is using conventional chemistries, they will work better because the insects haven’t had exposure to them.”

3) Scout always and often. Scouting is at the cornerstone of any successful pest management program. Regular (at least weekly) monitoring of pest levels allows you to make pest management decisions based on accurate, up-to-date information. The personnel doing the scouting needs to be knowledgeable about pest identification, life cycles, beneficials, and other factors. Many growers hire crop consultants who already have experience and training in these areas.

4) Know what pest you are targeting. For example, if you are using nematodes to control the pupae of western flower thrips, which live in the soil, be sure that is the thrip that is causing you problems. Not all thrips pupate in the soil, and the nematodes won’t have an impact if yours don’t.

5) Have insects shipped directly to you. Even if you buy from a distributor who helps you with paperwork and provides support, make sure the insects are drop shipped to you from the insectary. “You’d be amazed — sometimes the bugs start in Israel, go to Europe, out to California, and back,” Wainwright-Evans says.

6) Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to question your consultant’s recommendations. “I hate when people just take my word as gospel,” Wainwright-Evans says. “Make me explain why I’m telling you this. Question everything. That’s how you learn.”