Biocontrol: How? Why? When? Yes, I can!

Biocontrol: How? Why? When? Yes, I can!

Selecting the best natural predator and keeping a schedule are crucial to a successful biological control program.

Good bugs. Bad bugs. Pop quiz: can we tell them all apart? Let’s talk about the good guys doing all the work for us while controlling the bad guys … biocontrol. Starting a biocontrol program can seem a little daunting, as that is where I was nine years ago starting this journey, and not knowing where to start on such a grand scale.

Biological control can be defined as the deliberate use of natural enemies, parasites, pathogens, and competitors to suppress and maintain populations of a target pest species (insects, mites, weeds, plant pathogens and other pest organisms). Biological control is a practical option for suppressing — and, in some situations, eradicating — pest populations because it is safe and easy to use. Other reasons for starting a biological control program include:
• It can be very cost effective and environmentally sound when compared to broad-spectrum pesticides that are often used.
• They reduce the use of conventional pesticides.
• Once populations are established, it becomes self-sustaining.
• They can be target specific.
• They can be incorporated into existing integrated pest management programs.

The key is to start small with just one pest you want to control and/or one specific growing area (e.g., greenhouse A versus greenhouse B to focus on). Scouting is the first and most crucial step to any biological control program. Understanding and correctly identifying your pest population determines which natural predators to bring in and how frequently. This frequency can be determined by the time of year (spring versus winter), growing capacity and insect life stages seen during scouting. Some of the most common greenhouse insect pests include Western flower thrips, Frankliniella occidentalis (Pergande); green peach aphids, Myzus persicae (Sulzer); greenhouse whitefly, Trialeurodes vaporarorium (Westwood); sweet potato whitefly B-biotype, Bemisia tabaci (Gennadius); fungus gnat, Bradysia coprophila (Linter); and twospotted spider mites, Tetranychus urticae (Koch).

Continue reading.

Courtesy of gpnmag




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