Greenhouse ornamental plant growers adding edible crops to their product mix should consider incorporating biological controls into their integrated pest management program. 

An increasing number of ornamental plant growers are looking to take advantage of the growing demand for locally produced edible crops. Whether it’s for sales in their own garden centers, roadside stands, farmers markets, grocery stores and restaurants, the demand for locally-grown produce continues to increase.

Before starting to produce edibles, ornamental growers should thoroughly investigate how they’re going to produce and market their crops, including pest and disease management.

“There are less active ingredients registered for insect and disease control on vegetable crops than for ornamentals,” said Ron Valentin, technical lead at Syngenta Bioline. “It would be difficult for greenhouse growers to do vegetable production without the use of biological controls. Most greenhouse vegetable growers opening new facilities today are making biological controls a fundamental part of their control programs.

“The use of biological controls on vegetable crops began in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Greenhouse vegetable growers began running into issues of efficacy with conventional chemical control products that were available at the time.” 

Develop a knowledge base

Valentin said the most important things a grower can do when starting to use biological controls on edible crops is to develop a knowledge base and to be prepared.

“Don’t wait until you have a problem, especially with aphids,” Valentin said. “It is important that growers understand the life cycle of insects and how that relates to the plants. Before ornamental growers plant any edible crops they should become familiar with those crops and the pest problems they can have and the control options that are available.”

He said using biologicals is much different than traditional pesticide control programs where growers treat a problem rather than trying to prevent it.

“Ornamental growers are used to spraying instead of releasing predators,” he said. “In the case of greenhouse vegetable growers, they are trying to prevent problems from occurring rather than trying to fix problems. Biological controls are used to prevent pests from becoming established rather than trying to fix a problem after it occurs.” 

Click here to read the entire article, written by David Kuack for the corporate blog of Hort Americas,