From irrigation to temperature control to disease, there is a lot to manage when it comes to maintaining a nursery, public garden, greenhouse or farm. But what about those tiny insects that often swarm your face during the most uncomfortable, inconvenient moment? While these pesky pests may be a nuisance for humans, they can be even more detrimental to plants. In the past, many professionals would quickly turn to pesticides and other chemicals to keep the bugs away; however, due to stricter government regulations, the high costs of certain pesticides, and a growing interest and demand for alternative, more sustainable methods, the term “integrated pest management” (IPM) is now often heard (and commonly used) among the green industry.
To ensure that trade professionals are receiving up-to-date information and resources on IPM practices, The North Carolina Arboretum in conjunction with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service developed the IPM Symposium. Now it in its sixth year, this 2016 conference will present information on management techniques that protect pollinators while offering alternatives to harmful pesticides, such as beneficial insects and bio-control agents. Additionally, participants are able to receive pesticide credits and Continuing Education Units (CEUs) in North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.
Arboretum Greenhouse Manager June Jolley founded the symposium six years ago and works hard to implement many of the practices discussed during the conference within the Arboretum’s own production greenhouses. Learn more from June in the Q&A below.
1.) What are some examples of beneficial insects?
We use two microscopic mites, Phytoseiulus persimilis and Amblyseius californicus, for the control of spider mites. We use various wasps for control of aphids, and we spray nematodes weekly to help reduce thrips pressure.
2.) What is the advantage of an IPM program and using beneficial insects?
Insects quickly become resistant to pesticides, so the grower is constantly purchasing new products and rotating a large arsenal of pesticides to keep pest pressure down. These pesticides require re-entry periods before it is safe to enter the greenhouse again, thus interfering with crop maintenance. There is also a risk of phyto-toxicity from many pesticides, which can cause crop damage. By scouting for insects, learning their life stages, knowing which life stage is most vulnerable and maintaining a clean growing operation, the grower can begin to implement an integrated pest management program that incorporates the use of beneficial insects and other bio-control agents.
3.) How long has The North Carolina Arboretum been using an IPM program in its production greenhouses?
We have always used an IPM program in our horticultural operations, including scouting and rotation of pesticides. Switching from harmful pesticides to the use of bio-control agents and beneficial insects is a different style of IPM that we gladly embrace. It is safer for us and the environment, plus it works.
4.) Does the Arboretum’s production greenhouse use any pesticides or chemicals with beneficial insects? If so, why?
Yes. There are some pests such as mealybugs and scale that are not controlled with beneficial insects. Therefore, we have to apply pesticides to control them. However, we use what is termed “soft pesticides,” which means they carry less risk to humans and the environment. Some of these “soft pesticides” are insect growth regulators, fungal spores that invade the pest, oils and soaps. Many of these products are compatible with beneficial insects. Today, I drenched our fall chrysanthemum crop with a soft pesticide that causes a fungus to grow on the root system, which prevents harmful disease pathogens from developing on them.
5.) What kind of success have you seen with the Arboretum’s IPM program?
When I started working here 20 years ago, we sprayed fairly heavy pesticides once a week. Even by wearing proper personal protective equipment, there was still a risk to the persons applying the product. We started using beneficial insects in 2010, and we have not had to apply any of the heavy products that we formerly used. We still see harmful pests in the greenhouse, but by staying with our program, we are able to keep their numbers at a manageable threshold.
6.) What do you see in the future for integrated pest management programs for nurseries, greenhouses and other green industries?
It is becoming crucial for these operations to turn away from harmful pesticides, and their way of thinking about their pest management strategies has to change. I am seeing several growers in our area adopting an IPM program that uses beneficial insects and bio-controls. That is my goal in offering this symposium.
The 2016 Integrated Pest Management Symposium is scheduled for September 22, 2016, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The early bird registration discount ends September 1. To learn more about the symposium, program agenda or to register, please click here. The IPM symposium is supported in part by the following Arboretum symposium sponsors: Biobest USA, Hilton Asheville Biltmore Park, Medea’s REAL Food Café , Koppert Biological Systems, Banner Greenhouses., K2 Irritation Services, Inc. and Southeastern Native Plant Nursery.