Greenhouse Crop Protection: New Biosolutions Are Here, and More Are Coming

BioSafe Biocontrols biosolutions

Biological-based products are effective for commercial production, showing proven success with the Top 100 Growers. Photo: BioSafe Systems

The technology has improved so much with organic and biological-based products that it’s not an extremely niche idea like it was several years ago. That’s according to Eric Smith, National Sales Manager for BioSafe Systems, who says many growers on Greenhouse Grower’s Top 100 Growers list are using biological products.

“That is a testament to what biological products can do for commercial production. This is not for grandma’s side yard,” he says. “It’s for 1.4 million poinsettias, 700,000 mums, and Encore Azaleas by the millions. High level growers are using these products.”

However, some growers still question the efficacy of biological products. Smith says the products have come a long way in a short period of time. In some cases, growers have been using the same chemical product for 30 years and it works well, so they do not see any reason to change. Growers may have tried biological products before, but they did not have a good result. Perhaps the product was no longer viable or it was not applied correctly. A subpar experience leaves a bad taste in the grower’s mouth, so they may not want to try the product again, Smith says.
But when new growers come on board, they want to try new products. They may see pests and diseases have developed resistance to the products they used for years, and they might want to introduce a BCA.

Heidi Warner, U.S. Ornamental Segment Lead for Nufarm, says integrated pest management (IPM) programs are being implemented and monitored more closely.

Dipping Unrooted Vegetative Cuttings to Reduce Incoming Pest Populations

“IPM is an effective and environmental approach to pest management that relies on a combination of practices. IPM programs use current, comprehensive information on the life cycles of pests and their interaction with the environment. This information, in combination with available pest control methods, is used to manage pest damage by the most economical means,” she says. “IPM takes advantage of all appropriate pest management options including, but not limited to, the use of pesticides, biologicals and beneficials. IPM includes setting action thresholds, monitoring and identifying pests, and using prevention and control methods.”

What Do Growers Want?

Steve Larson, Greenhouse and Nursery Crop Specialist for Envu, says growers want products that target and control the intended pest effectively.

“Growers like chemical products that are systemic and/or long-lasting,” Larson says. “Longer-lasting products tend to require fewer treatments, which reduces costs. Systemic products can theoretically be applied through automated drip irrigation systems.”

He says growers welcome new, innovative control products that are effective and safe. In particular, growers are always asking for effective products to control thrips, mites and various beetles (red-headed flea beetle and assorted borers).

John Wendorf, Director – Turf & Ornamental, SePRO, says there is an increased interest in predatory insects as a method of pest control. Over time, Wendorf says there have been less truly innovative products. Therefore, growers are fine-tuning their existing IPM programs to maximize impact with existing solutions. They are focusing on rotation and integrating new methods to enhance effectiveness and reduce the risk of pest resistance, he says.

“Growers are increasingly looking for pest control products that can be integrated with biological control methods, specifically those that are compatible with the use of predatory insects,” Wendorf says. “The hard-to-control pests remain the same. Thrips, mites, and mealybugs are constantly challenging growers to maintain a healthy crop. Growers are always searching for products that are specifically effective against these resilient pests.”

He says that a new, invasive pest, Thrips parvispinus, has forced growers to become better pest managers. The outbreak started in Florida, but has the potential to affect any grower in the U.S.
Jane Stanely, Manager of Technical Services at Atticus, says there is an increased interest in alternative application methods. This could include low- and ultra-low-volume applicators, smart sprayers, and drones. She says growers are interested in new technology, especially when it reduces labor, improves worker safety, or adds to their bottom line.

“Above all else, growers are looking for products that work, fit their production systems, and make economic sense for their business,” Stanely says. “Efficacy remains the most important factor in product selection. Products that offer greater convenience and flexibility (a shorter reentry interval, reduced personal protective equipment requirement, and the ability to be tank-mixed with other products) mean fewer interruptions to production and shipping schedules.”

Growers are looking to get value out of their products, too.

“When demand for plants surged during the pandemic, growers were able to adjust for the increased cost of goods,” Stanely says. “As the industry recalibrates, there’s a renewed focus on input costs. Every application affects the bottom line, and maximizing the impact of each dollar spent, whether on crop protection products or the labor to apply them, is a priority.”

Dr. Michael Brownbridge, Senior Technical Services Manager for BioWorks, says growers want products that are easy to apply with concise application information, along with information on their use within integrated plant health programs.

“Rates and applications can be confusing, with a lot of variables at play; different crop types and varieties, combined with environmental factors make growing tricky,” he says. “Products need to be formulated and labeled with the grower in mind, so it takes many of the variables away.”

Eric McEwen, Director of U.S. and Canadian Marketing for Gowan, says labor and energy costs are often the biggest challenges at a greenhouse operation. Gowan has responded to this by providing reliable crop protection products to allow growers time to manage other challenges, such as labor and energy costs. Therefore, growers are looking for crop protection products that consistently perform.

“Growers want a product that is reliable and they know will perform,” he says. “Duration of control is important because spraying more often takes away management time and requires additional labor. Growers also want easy mixability and applicator safety.”

Furthermore, McEwen says growers want soft chemistry that is safe to beneficial insects. More growers are using beneficials, so they are looking for chemistries that will not harm those insects.

“Growers are looking for softer, but still effective, products,” he says.

New Products for 2024

  • BioSafe Systems: BioCeres GR, a new granular formulation for soil incorporation either pre-production or on the production line. This is a reformulation of BioSafe’s product and can be incorporated into bulk media.
  • BioWorks: Insecticide based on a proprietary microbial strain, that is targeted to thrips, whiteflies, root aphids and more, including pesticide resistant populations.
  • Gowan: New product pending registration, a microbial-based biological fungicide. Effective against powdery mildew and botrytis.
  • Nufarm: SureGuard Xtra Herbicide, a new dual-active formulation leveraging the proven post- and pre-emergence utility of SureGuard SC Herbicide plus pyroxasulfone to deliver two modes of action to manage weed resistance and gain powerful knockdown with longer lasting broad-spectrum weed control.
  • Nufarm: Ensemble, a broad-spectrum protectant and systemic fungicide that features four active ingredients with multiple modes of action for the broad-spectrum control of soil and foliar disease pathogens.
  • SePro: New herbicide for ornamental growers.
  • SePro: New 2(ee) label for Cutrine Plus for the control of water molds (oomycetes) in irrigation water.

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