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IPM: Bugs at Work

ipmIPM emphasizes cultural, physical and biological controls by first monitoring and scouting each crop for pests (insect and disease) and any natural enemies that might be present. One needs to have knowledge of their life cycle and consider that when deciding what level of activity would warrant action.

Several years ago, we decided to take a more proactive approach to controlling insects and disease by using biologicals beginning at the propagation stage. We began by applying a preventative biological fungicide to the flats that held our cuttings. This biological protects roots from pathogens and helps control certain plant diseases, in turn, encouraging, stronger, more viable roots to grow and take up nutrients. The result: A much stronger, healthier plant.

In 2011, we added the use of insect biologicals in our propagation house with great success. Currently we use different predatory mites that go after thrips, both red and two-spotted spider mites, and nematodes that attack fungus gnat larvae. We also continue to use biologicals whenever possible in the greenhouses that house our finished plant material. 

Over the years, Sunny Border has participated in various predator/prey management strategies, sometimes with mixed results. One strategy I remember in particular was in spring of 2002, when in conjunction with the University of Connecticut and the USDA APHIS, we participated in a study evaluating the biological control agent Serangium parcesetosum (an adult beetle) as a whitefly predator on our plants. The trial lasted two months with weekly releases of the predator. Unfortunately, at the end of the trial, the whitefly population remained largely unaffected. It had not been taken into account that the sides and doors of the greenhouses were raised on warm/humid days to permit airflow, adjust temperature and reduce humidity, therefore, while the predator did search out, find and feed on whiteflies they also went outside the greenhouses to search and feed as well. Go figure! Needless to say, UCONN, the USDA APHIS and Sunny Border have all learned a lot since then!