An example of a biologic control unfolds inside high school greenhouse

It’s a bug-eats-plant, bug-eats-bug-that-eats-plant world out there.
Sedro-Woolley High School agriculture teacher Christian Warman is showing his students how Mother Nature can take the place of chemical crop protection. “This is the future,” Warman said. “It’s huge for me and for these students. Eventually, this is what it is going to be all about. Taking a different approach to solving these type of problems.”

Warman has transformed a portion of the school’s greenhouse into a bug battlefield where a bug that eats plants is then eaten by the larvae of another insect. He collaborated on the project with Michael Shapiro, a retired elementary school teacher and Western Washington University professor who has studied horticulture extensively. The curriculum that Warman is using is both hands-on and targeted to meet state and National FFA Organization standards.
He is teaching how to use what are called biologic controls in greenhouse management.

“This class is definitely interesting,” said student and FFA member Brody Peterson. “I am learning a lot and it has been awesome.”
With his class gathered on Tuesday around cultivated barley plants covered with a thin netting, Warman got down to business.
Barley is a preferred food source of cereal aphids, which eat only grasses and cereal grains.

These particular aphids were visible upon the leaves of the barley plants. The aphids, however, weren’t alone. Hyperparasitic wasps — predators of the aphids — were also lurking on the leaves. The wasps are smaller than the aphids, with both being just visible to the naked eye. “The kids thought there were going to be swarms of stinging wasps in here,” Warman said. “That’s not the case. They are very small, much finer, and much quicker than the aphids. They are predatory.” One of Peterson’s first thoughts was that the aphids were going to ruin everything in the greenhouse. “Then I remembered (Warman) saying they were a specific type of aphid, one that sticks to very specific plants,” Peterson said. “I had no idea such things existed.”

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