Lifecycle Management of Fall Production Pests Using Biological Pesticides

By Manuel Campos, Ph.D., Entomologist, BioSafe Systems 

Seasons come and seasons go, but it always seems like the pests are here to stay. Developing a successful and sustainable year-round IPM program should be paramount for any grower whether it be in the greenhouse or in the nursery fields. Keeping in mind the entire lifecycle of the trouble insects can be more difficult in practice than it is in concept. Many growers deal with their pest problems in the now, however taking a preventative approach during the early stages of an insect’s growth will prove to be even more effective over time. Using biological products is one way to ensure greater control of pests while maintaining a sustainable and non-resistant program.

Fall production of ornamental crops such as pansies and poinsettias can be a breeding ground for whiteflies, fungus gnats, and thrips. Importing plugs from external sources presents its own risks as well when growers end up importing more than they bargained for. Bringing in large amounts of product along with large amounts of pests can have a detrimental effect on production and profits if left unchecked. Using biological pesticides that affect the different stages of an insect’s lifecycle are extremely effective, non-residual, and are soft on the plants themselves during any stage of production. Biological products can still be used with broad spectrum bactericides/fungicides but it’s all about the timing. Chemistries such as ZeroTol 2.0 can be applied throughout the growing on and finishing stages to prevent or treat common foliar diseases such as Botrytis or powdery mildew and since it simply breaks down into air and water a biological product can be used as soon as the chemical dries.

BioSafe Systems, a leader in sustainable chemistries, has developed a proprietary OMRI listed strain of Beauveria bassiana fungus used in their BioCeres WP® product, which is approved for organic production and is perfectly suited for IPM programs, in a tank mix with other pesticides or surfactants as well as specific, stand-alone use. This sustainable insecticide consists of a wettable powder formulation that is easily blended with water to form a suspension and can be applied as a direct foliar spray or fogging. BioCeres WP is enhanced with UV inhibitors and other proprietary stabilizers to form an extremely stable and predictable biological product that can be used regularly with no mutational resistance.

BioCeres WP is used for the biological control of numerous pests at all stages of their lifecycles including whiteflies, aphids, thrips, and spotted wing drosophila by adhering to the insect’s cuticle, germinating and piercing its outer shell, ultimately causing death. It can be used in a wide range of agricultural, nursery, and greenhouse crops including ornamental plants and edibles.

When an insect comes into direct contact or consumes the Beauveria bassiana, the conidia’s germination tubes begin to grow directly into the body of the insect by penetrating its outer shell (cuticle). These hyphae will not only pierce the insect causing physical changes but will release toxins as well, slowing their movement and reducing the damage that the insect can inflict on plants. This infection from BioCeres WP results in a white mold growth, called White Muscardine Disease, which leads to the eventual death of the insect. The Muscardine Disease will continue to produce spores, spreading to other insects and repeating the process without harming plants.

BioCeres WP is part of a larger BioSafe system of products and is made stronger by working together with other biological products such as AzaGuard, which acts as an insect growth regulator, stopping the molting process between the larval and pupal stages. Combining this effect with BioCeres WP, which targets all lifecycle stages, especially adults, effectively controls various insects that can harm crops of all kinds. Products like these are extremely effective as part of an integrated IPM program and aid growers in being proactive against pests rather than reactive. Ultimately saving time, money, and giving peace of mind to growers as they deal with stubborn pests anywhere in their production.

Killer Pathogens Can Be Murder on Crops

Courtesy of Growing America

They lurk deep down in the soils in crop fields—little murderers with names like Rhizoctonia, Pectobacterium and Pythium. You can’t see them, but you can see the mayhem they cause to your crops. Rotting roots. Wilted leaves. Lesions. Stunted growth. Money out the window.

“Soil-borne plant pathogens can limit or even ruin an entire vegetable or fruit crop if left uncontrolled,” says Vijay Kumar Choppakatla, Plant Pathologist/Director of Research and Development for BioSafe Systems. “The challenge is that many of them have a very broad host range, making a wide variety of crops susceptible to the destruction they can cause…and often you don’t know the pathogens exist until the worst damage is done.”

Choppakatla says it doesn’t take much to create the perfect pathogen storm. Among plant pathologists, and at BioSafe, a family-owned manufacturer of biodegradable disease-control products, based in East Hartford, Connecticut, that perfect storm is known as the “three corners of the disease triangle.” You start with a virulent pathogen, add a susceptible host (your crop plants), place in a congenial environment, and boom…a successful plant disease is born.

Even worse, soil-borne pathogens tend to be hardy—some of the nastiest fungal-based pathogens such as sclerotia can thrive in some of the harshest conditions and persist in the soil for many years, whether or not a field is planted.

Bottom line? Once pathogens have made themselves comfortable in your soil, they’re difficult to eradicate. Difficult, but not impossible.

Combination of Management Practices

Choppakatla says most growers use a combination of management practices to combat pathogens, including cultural, chemical and biological methods, all to achieve what today is generally known as “biosecurity.” In simple terms, biosecurity is the elimination and prevention of disease pressures in an environment, thereby maintaining a healthy growing area. The challenge is to exercise biosecurity while being kind to the environment

  1.  Cultural Methods

When you think “cultural” management of soil-borne pathogens, think about the things you’re likely doing already such as adding organic matter to your soil, rotating crops, planting cover crops between fields, controlling irrigation, and disposing of culled produce somewhere where it won’t re-infect a field.

Another simple yet powerful eradication method is soil solarization, literally using the heat from the sun to kill the bad organisms. While it may not be viable for large fields, it works well in smaller plots.

According to Rodale’s Organic Life, the process involves laying a clear plastic tarp atop soil cleared of plant debris to concentrate the sun’s energy in the top 12 to 18 inches. The heat trapped below the plastic can reach highs of 140°F in the top 6 inches, killing weed seeds, insects, nematodes, and many fungal and bacterial pathogens. It’s worth noting that the beneficial effects from solarization are greatest near the soil surface and decrease with depth.

2.    Chemical Methods

Chemical methods involve use of soil fumigation prior to crop planting, seed treatment with chemicals and post-plant soil fungicides.

“Using chemicals can be effective, however, the application processes can be cumbersome and intensive,” says Choppakatla. “Some soil fumigants require growers to adhere to special management plans to properly administer the treatment and avoid any non-target exposure to the applied fumigant. Plus, there’s a waiting period between application and planting of about 3 to 4 weeks. It’s also critical to create buffer zones around the treated fields.”

Moreover, Choppakatla points out, for organic growers, conventional fumigants aren’t even an option. Which is why many farmers, traditional and organic alike, turn to the natural option of biological-based control and eradication of soil-borne pathogens—solutions that are not only safer for the environment, but also for people and animals.

3.    Biological Methods

Biological-based methods (Bio-control) involve the use of registered bacterial and/or fungal-based bio-control agents; natural preventiatives which protect plant roots from soil pathogen infection; and use of soil inoculants which use beneficial endophytes (microbes) to promote plant health.

Choppakatla says the primary objective of these all-natural treatments is to address soil-borne pathogens in a way that maintains sustainable soil health without negatively impacting the health and safety of people and the environment.

“An important consideration in the use of biological management options is that they are primarily preventive in nature,” notes Choppakatla. “In other words, they help to prevent the infection but may not help with control once infection is established. So timing of application is key with this method.”

BioSafe’s treatments involve integration of chemical and biological based methods designed to help with controlling soil pathogens while maintaining/improving the soil health, which is critical for plant growth.

“The chemical treatment method we’ve developed involves use of activated hydrogen peroxide-based chemistry and both of the products in the system are non-residual and non-toxic.”

Among the products based under this group of chemicals (H202 + PAA) are TerraStart and TerraClean 5.0 which Choppakatla says are both EPA approved for use as a soil bactericide/fungicide. TerraClean 5.0 is also OMRI approved for use in organic production.

“Upon application to the soil,” explains Choppakatla, “the products basically sanitize the soil by oxidizing the plant pathogenpropagules immediately on contact. Then the chemicals break down into water, oxygen and acetic acid, which are completely safe by-products. As an added benefit, there is a release of oxygen, a bonus benefit because it helps oxygenate the plant root zone.”

We all want effective solutions for maintaining healthy soil that contributes to healthy growth and high yields, and sometimes the idea of “alternative methods” can give us pause. As part of a company that specializes in those alternative methods, Choppakatla knows well the hesitation some growers have to try new technologies.

“Ask the hard questions, read up on reliable efficacy data, and do the math to make sure it fits your budget. But above all, whatever treatment plan you adopt for your operation, consider its effects on the environment.”

BioSafe Systems: Growing our East Coast Technical Team

EAST HARTFORD, CT, April 13 – BioSafe Systems is proud to announce the strategic hire of Patrick Clark, as a Technical Sales Representative for the Northeast territory of the United States.  He brings with him an extensive experience and regional knowledge of the agriculture market.

Patrick served as a business unit agronomist for Helena Chemical Company where he provided agronomic and precision agriculture support in the eastern half of the US. He was also employed by Marrone Bio Innovations as a sales representative in the Northeast & Great Lakes regions. Prior to that, he was the general manager of a wholesale nursery servicing the ornamental and agriculture markets in the Northern California, Western Nevada, and Southern Oregon markets. Patrick holds three Associate of Agriculture Science degrees from Butte-Glen Community College and a Bachelor’s Degree in Agriculture Science: Crops, Horticulture, & Land Resource Management from California State University – Chico, CA. 

He will be based in the greater Philadelphia area and is advantageously located to best support the Northeastern US territory via travel. In Patrick’s spare time, he enjoys camping/hiking, backpacking, kayaking, fishing, and hunting. He is an avid reader of history and science based subjects, and he thoroughly enjoys travelling and exploring new cultures. Additionally, Patrick volunteers his time at a local community garden project as well as hosting mini-seminars there to home gardeners on a wide range of agricultural and horticultural topics. BioSafe Systems welcomes Patrick and is pleased to have him as a part of the family.

For more information, contact BioSafe Systems toll-free at 888-273-3088

Must Haves for Pre-season Preparation

By: Matthew Lavallee

With Spring upon us a new growing season begins across America, the importance of pre-season preparation can’t be understated; ensuring that you are equipped for future issues now can save a lot of time and money later down the road. Anticipating a pest or pathogen outbreak keeps growers more mindful throughout the entire production and keeping ahead of these potential issues will aid in generating a bountiful crop with as little loss as possible. Read more about how to stay on top of your crop this season by preparing early.

Treat those seeds

Pre-season preparation begins with properly treating seeds prior to planting using hot water treatments or bactericide/fungicide washes to kill pathogens on the seed itself before they begin to germinate. Using washes and baths is the most effective way to neutralizes pathogens but the process requires immediate planting once they are introduced to water for such a prolonged period. Plan ahead and ensure that your fields are ready to receive the seed as soon as it has been treated to maximize control of bacteria and fungus but minimize the loss of seed due to moisture.

 

Healthy Soil is imperative

Of course, planting treated seeds into infected soil undoes this hard work so to make sure that planting areas are prepped to receive cleaned seed as soon as possible, focus on eradicating soil borne pathogens, pests, and nematodes in the field itself by treating the planting area with bactericides/fungicides especially in the root zone, managing pathogens and establishing a proper starting point for healthy plants. Once the pathogens have been addressed, using a beneficial soil amendment or inoculant can increase stimulation of healthy root systems and aid in increased yields all season long.

 

Don’t forget Pre, and Post emergent weed treatment

Now that the seeds and soil are clean you have developed a near perfect breeding ground for all plants, including the ones that you didn’t introduce. Controlling weeds immediately and continuing throughout the entire growing season should be a top priority for any grower. Take action early whenever possible with pre-emergent herbicides to gain the upper hand early and continue the fight once weeds have broken the surface with post emergent weed control in order to keep resource-competing weeds at bay.

Proper weed management should not be limited to the crop area but also practiced around the entire premises. Don’t neglect to use broad spectrum herbicides in less attended areas such as roadsides/driveways, fence lines, and around barns and storage areas where unwanted plants can become unwieldy and problematic rather quickly.

 

Prep now, reap later

Following steps like these is just one part of a healthy and productive season, but without pre-season preparation, you could be setting yourself up for more issues than there is time to address. Acting now, and keeping the pressure on ensures success that will last all season long.

PROGRAMS

With an entire family of products, we have solutions for countless problems!

SERVICE

We pride ourselves with our commitment to our client.

EQUIPMENT

We offer a wide variety to make your processes easier.

LITERATURE

Find information for your BioSafe products.