How BCAs release technologies for the greenhouse are evolving

How BCAs release technologies for the greenhouse are evolving

Biological control agents (BCAs), beneficial insects, mite, and insect predators are a hot topic among growers looking to reduce their pesticide use and environmental impact. No matter how plants are being grown – in the greenhouse, in the field, or even warehouse production – there exists a BCA release strategy appropriate for that setting. Modern insectaries actively test out new release strategies in both traditional, low-tech operations and modern, technology-heavy settings to fine tune product performance. This article will review traditional methods alongside some exciting developments in the field of BCA release technology.

Bulk Distribution

The most basic way to deliver BCAs is via bulk release. Bulk product consists of a loose carrier material such as peat, vermiculite, bran, or rice hulls with live insects or mites mixed in. These products often come in relatively large volumes, from 4 ounces up to several liters. . When using 100% bran carrier and predatory mites, growers sometimes create “breeder piles” at the base of plants.

It might seem odd to introduce additional debris like vermiculite into BCA bulk releases, but carrier material plays a vital role. To begin with, shipping and handling of BCAs is not always smooth. Carrier materials provide a buffer and padding against rough handling and keeps insect or mite predators comfortably spaced. Carrier also provides a way to ensure even mixtures and applications by allowing growers to homogenize through gentle rolling or turning motions just prior to application. Certain carriers, such as bran, support colony development and longevity. In the case of bran, it provides a food source for bran mites, which serve as feeder mites to the predator mites. Aside from breeder piles, most bulk releases remain effective for one to two weeks.

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Photo Courtesy of Greenhouse Grower

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