Gauging Greenhouse Pesticide Use

The economic challenges many greenhouse growers faced in 2009 obviously resulted in challenges for many of their suppliers. This was particularly true for suppliers of herbicides, fungicides, insecticides and plant growth regulators who felt pressure from reduced production, as well as more aggressive price shopping by growers.

In fact, nearly one-third of the respondents to a survey conducted by Greenhouse Grower reported cutting their total pesticide expenditures in 2009 from 2008. And while more than 40 percent of growers reported an increase in their pesticide spending last year, they also noted that such increases were by a very low percentage over 2008 levels, ultimately resulting in a flat year at best for pesticide suppliers.

Production Rising

The Greenhouse Grower survey did unearth some good news, though, as growers reporting they plan to increase production in 2010 outnumber those planning to reduce production 2-to-1. Still, growers are clearly looking to control their costs, and pesticide expenditures remain one area of focus.

On average, respondents to the survey reported spending slightly more than $22,000 on pesticide products in 2008, which would equate to total pesticide spending of approximately $330 million annually by the greenhouse growers nationwide.

However, there is clearly a wide range of spending among growers. Nearly two-thirds of survey respondents report annual pesticide expenditures of less than $10,000 while more than 16 percent of the respondents report spending in excess of $50,000 on these products last year.

Insecticides are the most commonly purchased pesticide products, although growers clearly use a complete arsenal of products to solve their pest problems.

Product Type
% of Growers Who Bought In 2009
Insecticides 90.2%
Fungicides 80.4%
Herbicides 71.4%
Plant growth regulators 61.6%
Miticides 58.9%

Going ‘Eco’

The research also illustrated what many industry observers have noted regarding the incorporation of “organic” or “eco-oriented” products in a pest control program–it’s slow but happening. While only one-third of respondents noted they’ve been using these products for four years or more, slightly more than half (53.6 percent) of the survey respondents said they purchased at least one such product in 2009.

In addition, nearly half (47.6 percent) of the growers reported increasing their spending on these alternative products, while 43.2 percent of growers reported they expect to increase their spending on this category in 2010.

Still, this group of products represents a relatively small portion of the overall pest control spending in the industry with just 27 percent of growers reporting more than 10 percent of their total pest control spending goes toward organic products. What the numbers clearly show is that a small segment of growers has committed itself to a pest control program built around alternative products, while the vast majority of growers remain largely wedded to the traditional products as they gradually incorporate some alternative products into their programs.

Not surprisingly given that growers report they are working to control their pesticide expenditures, they are also working to avoid buying product any earlier than they have to buy it. Nearly 60 percent of respondents reported they buy the majority of their pesticides as needed during the season while only 23.9 percent reported buying these products at least three months prior to application.

Top Pests & Diseases

Growers also reported buying pesticides produced by a wide range of manufacturers, with the five most commonly identified as sources being Syngenta, OHP, BioWorks, BASF, Dow AgroSciences and BioSafe.

Finally, growers identified a wide range of pest challenges from last year. The most commonly cited insect issues were aphids, thrips and white flies, while the most common disease problems were botrytis, powdery mildew, phytophthora and pythium.

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