Browning is the BASF Turf & Ornamentals technical specialist for the West, an entomologist and an IPM enthusiast.
Greenhouse Management: What’s new with biologicals?
Jen Browning: More skeptics are trying them! Skeptics might be growers who’ve long held off or tried before and didn’t get good results. But growers are the ultimate optimizers, and fortunately, the methods, beneficial offerings, support and grower results improve every year. With new research to encourage adoption for difficult pest management problems, more operations are adding a biological to their rotations.
GM: That makes it sound easy, like one biological can make a difference. Is it possible to see results with a single biological product in a mostly conventional program?
JB: It is. The easiest way to get a great result with a biological is to use Nemasys® beneficial nematodes for fungus gnat control in the greenhouse. The nematodes are applied through any standard spray equipment and can even be tank mixed with most conventional products. Though they need to be refrigerated before use, they’re otherwise similar to a chemistry application, except you don’t have to wear PPE and there’s no REI. The best part is that a weekly application of beneficial nematodes can provide the same level of control for fungus gnats as a conventional solution.
GM: How do growers handle compatibility between chemistry and biologicals like nematodes or beneficial insects?
JB: The producer of each biological control agent, or BCA, will have information about compatibility. For example, there is a guide for Nemasys beneficial nematodes tank mix compatibility with common fungicides, insecticides, fertilizers and adjuvants. You can find these on the producers’ websites.
GM: When chemistry is compatible with beneficial insects, does that mean you can spray them directly?
JB: It does, and you’ll see this most often with targeted chemistries. Their spectrum of control is very narrow by design. However, many advisers will suggest that you release beneficials after sprays have dried. This is so beneficials are not injured or scattered with high pressure sprays or large droplets, and to protect them from adjuvants and any non-compatible tank mix partners. We need to remember that compatibility is tested with specific formulated products, so substituting a different brand with different carriers can impact compatibility: another reason to allow sprays to dry prior to making releases.
GM: Besides Nemasys beneficial nematodes, does BASF offer other biologicals?
JB: We have a full line of beneficial nematodes, including Millenium® beneficial nematodes for shore flies and other larval insect pests like caterpillars, Nemasys L beneficial nematodes for black vine and other weevils, and Nemasys G beneficial nematodes for grubs; these are all WSDA organic certified. We also offer Velifer® fungal contact insecticide and miticide, which contains our proprietary strain of Beauveria bassiana for a variety of insects and all life stages of spider mites and broad mites. Additionally, BASF is in the final stages of developing a new biofungicide for release in 2023, and we are on the hunt for Phasmarhabditis hermaphrodita in the U.S., the nematode species that targets snail and slugs. Once we receive USDA approval, we’ll add a biological molluscicide to our portfolio. We’re looking forward to bringing new, hardworking BCAs to the IPM labor pool.