7 tips for pest and disease control

2017 Spring Survival Guide - 2017 Spring Survival Guide: Pest & Disease

Don’t let this aspect of your business slip during the busiest part of the year.

March 21, 2017

Assigning employees specific tasks related to pest and disease control can help protect your greenhouse.
Photo: Dreamstime.com

Pest and disease issues can wreak havoc on greenhouse production, even as plants are being prepared for shipment. And during the spring, when the to-do list seems never-ending, taking the time to properly manage pest and disease issues may not be the main focus in the greenhouse.

But pests and diseases don’t take time off, and managing these issues is vital and essential to a productive spring. Here are seven tips for solving pest and disease issues during the busiest time of the year:

1. Know when your plants are most vulnerable.

Plants are most susceptible to bacterial diseases when water is on the foliage, for example. After the propagation stage, the disease pressure may not be as strong as it would be at the beginning of the process. But plants can still be vulnerable just before they are due to be shipped out to stores. Additionally, use the internet as a resource to understand different diseases. A simple search for whatever color spot you see can yield useful track sheets, fact cards and tips for different diseases, although you should verify the diagnosis with a professional. Place the information in an area where all employees can easily reference it. And be sure to take photos of any plant you think may be infected.

For more information on protecting your plants from bacterial diseases, read “The case of spotty bacteria” at bit.ly/2nk0cu6

2. Prioritize sanitation.

Sanitation is any greenhouse’s first line of defense against disease. If a greenhouse isn’t clean and well maintained, it’s much likelier that disease will spread. Weeding inside and outside of the greenhouse, removing plant debris and reducing algae are three ways to properly sanitize a greenhouse. It’s also important to work at it diligently, day-by-day, instead of trying to it all at once. Making an action plan includes specific tasks for specific employees can be helpful as well.

Get more sanitation tips and tricks at bit.ly/2lIDAqE

3. Know which biocontrol agents are most useful for your operation.

Biological controls are designed to help growers. Picking one can be difficult, as each one affects different pests in different ways. Consult this chart created by Dr. Raymond Cloyd to help match the right biological control with the correct pests, at bit.ly/2nk7JsZ

4. Do your homework.

Research insecticides, bugs and other pest-related topics in order to make the most informed decisions.
Photo: Dreamstime.com

Insecticides are an important part of most greenhouse pest management programs. To pick the right insecticide, it’s important to understand what your desired intent is, what common issues greenhouses face and what your timeline is for having plants ready to go. Expand your insecticides knowledge by reading “Don’t let pests prevail” at bit.ly/2njVa0s

5. Learn from other growers dealing with the same issues.

Thorsen’s Greenhouse, located in Delaware, Ohio, completed its last growing season using only biological pest controls. And while growing holiday plants, they didn’t encounter a single disease issue.While growing in a 50,000 square foot facility, Thorsen’s utilized a three-part pest and disease control regimen that started during cutting and was completed during finishing. Assistant grower Marilyn Norman came up with the idea to implement the program after attending a workshop at Four Star Greenhouses in Michigan back in 2015.

Learn from Norman’s efforts and attend any relevant workshops in your area. Call other growers that you may have met at Cultivate or other trade shows and see what they are doing to combat pest and disease. Also, consider reaching out to extension professionals at nearby universities, as they’ve spent years studying the issues you’re currently facing. Learn more about Thorsen’s effort by reading “2017 Greenhouse Greats: Biological Control” at bit.ly/2lLFl6D

6. Create a consistent environment.

Not only can creating a consistent environment keep costs down, but it can also help keep your greenhouse free of pests and disease. Clean fans, seal in heat and keep an eye on temperature by installing updated thermostats and electronic controls to maintain ideal growing conditions. This process can take time, so plan and delegate maintenance responsibilities to employees as necessary. Also, consider making a checklist so no task is left undone, and make sure your employees know what is expected of them.

Research insecticides, bugs and other pest-related topics in order to make the most informed decisions.
Photo: Dreamstime.com

Read more on creating a healthy growing environment at bit.ly/2lIyb2R

7. Put an emphasis on scouting.

Successful pest monitoring is a meticulous, painstaking task and it’s not something a grower can do in a single day. And even during the busy spring season, it’s important to maintain thorough and organized scouting efforts. Go row by row and check every plant to make sure it’s healthy. Check the undersides of leaves to find any insects and mites hiding on the bottom. And start as early as you can, giving yourself more time to find all unwanted pests.

Hone your monitoring and scouting strategies with Cloyd’s tips at bit.ly/2lIyQBm