Posts Tagged ‘ pest management ’

Issue 111: Keeping it Clean

March/April 2010
Author: Christine Paul

According to a leading authority on greenhouse and hydroponic horticulture, maintaining rigorous hygiene practices in the greenhouse is critical to reducing costs and losses in the management of pests and diseases.

Jeremy Badgery-Parker provides an extension service on all aspects of greenhouse and hydroponic production.

Jeremy Badgery-Parker (BScAgr MBA) is the Extension Horticulturist for greenhouse and hydroponic horticulture with Industry & Investment NSW (I&I NSW). He provides an extension service on all aspects of greenhouse and hydroponic production and is involved in a variety of research and extension projects focused on the long-term development of the protected cropping industry in NSW and Australia.

Current projects include developing a business analysis and greenhouse benchmarking program for growers, investigating alternate energy sources and improving greenhouse energy efficiency, water treatment and recycling, low-cost retrofit options for greenhouses locally and in the Philippines, as well as an ongoing focus on improving general greenhouse management and implementing better pest and disease management practices. Jeremy works out of the National Centre for Greenhouse Horticulture (NCGH), Narara, on the NSW Central Coast.

“I have been involved in a HAL project looking at improving awareness of preventative pest and disease management practices. Several workshops have been run in NSW and some in SA and one in Queensland so far and the project is coming to a close shortly,” he says.

Supported by HAL and AusVeg, the project was set up to provide greenhouse growers with the basic information and skills needed for integrated and preventative pest and disease management and to assist them in overcoming barriers to adoption when implementing the foundations of integrated pest management (IPM).

Jeremy is the author of Keep it CLEAN – Reducing costs and losses in the management of pests and diseases in the greenhouse – a comprehensive guide for growers aimed at helping them establish and maintain good hygiene strategies in the greenhouse.

“The Keep it CLEAN manual – as well as some other resources, including factsheets describing 10 essential management practices describe in detail what growers should be doing in terms of good greenhouse hygiene practices,” he says.

10 essential practices for all growers
The series of HAL fact sheets are designed to show how simple, low-cost changes around the greenhouse can significantly reduce costs and losses from pests and diseases. Outlined in the fact sheets are 10 essential practices for every farm:

1. Be able to correctly identify pests and diseases (or have them identified for you) and routinely conduct a pest and disease check to ensure early detection and correct identification of problems.

The simplified pest and disease check is easy to complete because
the greenhouse is set up in advance with marked zones.

2. Action points are determined and pest and disease check information is used for all decision-making including chemical, biological, whole-crop and hot-spot treatments.

3. The greenhouse is within a ‘clean’ zone, which is quarantined from the ‘outside’ zone of the farm.

4. Check and control points are used to control movement of people, vehicles, plants and materials into the ‘clean’ zone.

Roads and paths around the greenhouses need to be kept clean and free of plants, plant material, soil and other debris.

5. Employees and visitors do not visit another greenhouse before entering your greenhouse.

6. All seedlings are checked and found free from pests and diseases before they are planted out into a clean greenhouse.

7. A 5-10 metre-wide clean buffer area is maintained around the greenhouse.

8. The greenhouse is always cleaned and disinfected before planting new crop.

9. The greenhouse and farm surrounds are kept weed-free.

A 5-10 metre weed-free buffer area is needed around every greenhouse on the farm.

10. Crop debris is removed and stored/disposed of outside.

Prevention is cheaper than treatment
Clearly, the profitability and productivity of a greenhouse can be significantly improved by minimising the losses caused by pests and diseases.

“Preventative pest and disease management is about planning, cleaning and quarantining. No single practice on its own can completely prevent pests and diseases causing losses to your crop and to your business,” Jeremy says.

Keeping the greenhouse clean and tidy is a must for all growers and keeping the floor covered makes pest and disease management even easier.

“The key to cost-effective pest and disease management is integrating the most suitable strategies from all the available options and establishing a solid prevention program.

“Integrated pest management, or IPM, is the use of multiple tactics to contain pests and diseases to tolerable levels,” he says.

Every aspect of growing a good crop is part of an integrated pest and disease management program and preventative practices make up the majority of management tactics available to growers.

“Monitoring the crop regularly and routinely enables you to find pests and diseases early. This means you will have more management options available to you,” he says.

“Do a pest and disease check in every greenhouse at least twice a week in summer and once per week in winter. Inspect at least 12 plants per greenhouse and use sticky traps.

“Set up each greenhouse beforehand and mark check points in your greenhouse to make the job easier. Use pre-prepared charts to keep record keeping fast and easy,” Jeremy advises.

“Checking pest numbers routinely enables growers to reduce the number of spray applications. For example, one grower now averages two fewer sprays per crop, saving hundreds of dollars.”

Talking greenhouse hygiene
In the following, Jeremy Badgery-Parker further shares his extensive knowledge of greenhouse hygiene strategies with PH&G readers:

PH&G: What are some of the most common mistakes growers make in terms of greenhouse hygiene?
JBP: One of the most common mistakes growers can make with respect to greenhouse hygiene is taking a short cut. The investment of time and resources into cleaning and maintaining a greenhouse and developing good hygiene practices and farm management policies can be, and is often, completely undone with a single oversight, such as not using a footbath properly or ducking back into a greenhouse to get something without ensuring that clothes, footwear or tools are clean.

The ‘Keep it clean’ project provided foot baths to participating growers. Every person entering a greenhouse must place both feet into the footbath each and every time they enter.

PH&G: Are there any extra precautions hydroponic growers should take?
JBP: Greenhouse and hydroponic growers have an important production advantage in that the production system can be completely clean and pest and disease-free at the start of the crop, unlike field or soil-based production. This pest and disease-free status needs to be protected especially because incoming problems can potentially spread faster if they get into a clean environment.

Another advantage of many hydroponic systems is that plant root zones can be kept separate to minimise the risk of diseases spreading. Growers should, where feasible, ensure that the way their hydroponic system is set up provides effective drainage and prevents root to root contact by plants.

PH&G: When checking for pests and diseases are there any crops that require more frequent monitoring than others?
JBP: All crops need to be routinely inspected – monitored – for pests and diseases. At a minimum, a pest and disease check needs to be conducted twice per week in the warmer months and at least once per week in the cooler months. Monitoring and making a record of pest and disease levels is one of the most valuable pest and disease management practices anyone can do – it is the cornerstone of effective pest and disease management in any crop.

A very simple pest and disease check procedure as well as example charts that make record keeping extremely fast and easy are described in the Keep it Clean manual.

PH&G: Can you describe how ‘action points’ are important in any greenhouse hygiene strategy?
JBP: Action points – sometimes called threshold levels – are a method of pre-planning a pest or disease management strategy. They are set points that you use to make decisions about what, if any, management action you need to take.

By creating a decision point and an action to follow if that point is reached, growers can establish objective responses and benchmarks that not only enable effective and timely management but also greatly improve efficiency, reduce costs and provide a measure by which future actions can be further improved.

Action points go hand-in-hand with effective monitoring. A number of examples are given in the Keep it CLEAN manual to illustrate how they work. The more accurate your action point, the more cost-effective your management of pests and diseases will be.

PH&G: What are some of the most common diseases and pests hydroponic growers need to monitor?
JBP: A number of key pests and diseases commonly occurring in greenhouses in Australia are described in the Keep it CLEAN manual. Effective management of pests and diseases depends on knowing the problem. Preventative practices rely on understanding the problems, knowing the sources of key pests and diseases in and around the farm and being aware of the risk factors.

Thrips, mites and whiteflies are common pests that are far more readily managed when routine monitoring is used to identify early incursions and likely sources. Recognising the early signs of diseases are important and regularly checking a sample of plants in every greenhouse gives a grower the capacity to pre-empt outbreaks and ensure appropriate hygiene practices are being followed.

PH&G: Since the HAL fact sheets were published, have there been any updates growers should know of?
JBP: No, though it is worth noting that the fact sheets are available online. There is also a farm review workbook plus an order form for a copy of the manual [see below].

Request your copy of Keep it CLEAN
Keep it CLEAN is a comprehensive guide for greenhouse growers that lists and describes more than 70 management practices that can significantly reduce the costs and losses that can result from pests and diseases.

The guide also includes practical information on key pests and diseases, assessing the risk of different problems, conducting simple pest and disease monitoring and developing action plans to implement new management practices.

For your copy of Keep it CLEAN – published by NSW Department of Primary Industries – go online: or email:

The guide (normally $33 incl. GST) is available FREE of charge to Australian vegetable-levy-paying greenhouse growers.

Issue 99: Green Solutions for Greenhouse Pests

March/April – 2008
Authors: Marilyn Steiner & Stephen Goodwin

In the third in a series of articles on pesticide use in an IPM environment, the authors give an update on pesticides for use with natural enemies, and highlight a strategy that will give growers the best return.

In a previous issue (Issue 97, November/December 2007) we discussed the need for a ‘Made in Australia’ minor use initiative. We also need to expand the range of pesticides available to Australian growers for use in IPM programs. In the article mentioned, we took issue with the broad definition of the term ‘reduced-risk’ pesticides as used in the USA and Canada, which embraces products with less risk to people than traditional existing products, but which nevertheless can be highly detrimental to natural enemies.

Does it really matter if the pesticides are doing a good job, you ask? Well, yes. These new generation materials may be just as prone to developing resistance problems in their target pests as the old ones, plus they are far too expensive to develop, manufacture and buy to have gathering dust on the shelf after a short effective life. How soon we forget that the reason for investing all that effort in finding a better predator or parasite wasn’t just because we were all eco-freaks, but because we had worked existing pesticides to death and they were no longer effective.

Degrees of safety: reduced-risk, biorational, or biopesticide?
The term ‘reduced-risk’ is falling out of favour these days. Now the in-phrase is ‘biorational’. This too is a term that is lacking a rigorous definition. Try this one: the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) identifies biorational pesticides as ‘inherently different from conventional pesticides, having fundamentally different modes of action and consequently, lower risks of adverse effects from their use’. Or this one: ‘pest control products that are relatively non-toxic to people with few environmental side-effects’. Biorational pesticides have been equated with ‘least toxic pesticides’ and ‘biopesticides’.

Minimum risk pesticides are different again. Biopesticides, on the other hand, are actually specifically regulated in the USA and thus the EPA has formed a committee to determine what makes the list.

Officially, biopesticides are subdivided into microbials such as Bacillus thuringiensis, plant-pesticides such as Bt cotton, and biochemical pesticides such as pheromones and IGRs, at least, some of them. Registration is generally faster than for more conventional pesticides, though safety is not compromised.

For the purpose of this article, let’s settle on ‘biorational’, and assume no or only minor effects on natural enemies goes along with safety to fish, fowl and Homo sapiens.

An update on pesticides for use with natural enemies
For our own list, we have selected a range of biorational materials that have (so far) a good track record of safety to a range of natural enemies used in greenhouses (see Table 1 and Table 2). We have endeavoured to cover insecticides and miticides, but not fungicides, most of which are safe. On a scale of 1 (no toxicity) to 4 (very toxic), we disqualified any active ingredient that scored 3 or 4 in two or more key natural enemy categories. These are predatory mites (e.g. Phytoseiulus persimilis, Neoseiulus cucumeris, Stratiolaelaps [Hypoaspis] scimitus), predatory beetles (e.g. Cryptolaemus montrouzieri), predatory bugs (e.g. Orius, Macrolophus), lacewings (e.g. Mallada, Chrysoperla) and parasitoids (e.g. Encarsia formosa, Aphidius colemani).

This list is compiled to narrow the field for you when searching for additional information. It should not be considered gospel, because many factors impinge on whether a product can be used with minimum impact or not. Even water can be harmful if you apply it at high pressure or often enough. Note that only active ingredients in italics have one or more registrations within Australia. It is not okay to use an unregistered product or one that is registered but not on your crop; however, it is legitimate to canvass for new products and uses and support their registration. Interested in other products in the list? Contact your Department of Agriculture or Primary Industry for information on how and where to get some action.

Multiple choice in sites of activity
At one time we were restricted to inorganic, organophosphate, organochlorine and carbamate insecticides. Nowadays pesticides are classified into nearly 30 main groups depending on their mode of action. CropLife Australia provides a listing for Australian registered products.

The lethal mechanism is still unknown for some actives, for example flonicamid (Aria®), Group 9, a broad-spectrum pesticide not yet available in Australia, but with a good safety profile for natural enemies. The new miticide acequinocyl (Kanemite®) is listed as in Group 20; it acts on mitichondrial electron transfer. Another new miticide, spiridiclofen (Envidor®), is in Group 23, an inhibitor of lipid synthesis, with a slightly better safety profile than its close relative spiromesifen (not listed in Tables). The ability to rotate between pesticides with different modes of action, while preserving natural enemies, is the key to long-term resistance management. Our current choices in a greenhouse environment are very limited and likely to remain so unless we lobby hard for change.

Green is not black and white
You should note that there are sometimes major differences in response to pesticides between insects and mites in the same general category. For example, the whitefly parasitoid Encarsia formosa is generally more sensitive than the aphid parasitoid Aphidius colemani, but there may also be regional differences in natural enemy response due to strain differences or acquired resistance. A pesticide may act quite differently on different life stages of the natural enemy. It’s a safe bet that death within the egg or pupal stage will probably not be noticed. Effects can be immediate, with twitching and toes upturned, or chronic, with apparent survival but reduction in feeding rate, egg laying, survival time, motility, mating urge, etc.

Most of us don’t hang in for the long haul. It shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that knocking off most of the pests can also lead to starvation and a sudden drop in the population that may be mistaken for pesticide toxicity. For more detailed information on effects of pesticides (including fungicides) on a wide range of natural enemies, check the websites of Koppert (, recently revamped and much easier to use; Biobest (, usually good but not working well on Vista at time of writing, and the local Australasian Biological Control (

Developing a strategy that will give you the best return
The general characteristics of most biorational pesticides are that they have short residual activity with low persistence, and are more targeted products with a narrow spectrum of activity against pests. Another common characteristic is that most are far too expensive to waste! Therefore think prevention rather than cure, a back-up for natural enemies rather than a replacement for them. You might also consider your strategy for their use in the context of present and past global warfare. Conventional warfare is about area-wide bombardment. However, we have all seen how well-targeted guerrilla tactics, using minimal resources, can achieve the same end with far less collateral damage. Some do’s for a successful outcome:

• Do tailor each specific treatment to the most susceptible pest stage and monitoring to get the timing right.
• Do assess which natural enemies are critical to management of the pests you have, and check the right products are on hand to have least effect.
• Do target pesticide usage efficiently, using good spray technique.
• Do monitor before and after each application to assess effectiveness against the pest, any effect on key natural enemies, and the need for follow-up treatment.
• Do use spot treatments rather than area coverage so as to leave refuges for natural enemies.
• Do deploy the troops before the pests get out of hand.

The range of pesticides now available and their relative safety to both people and the environment is far better than it used to be. The focus is on environmentally friendly products, with fast-track incentives to keep them coming. Let’s all keep the pesticide companies on track by using their products in a well-informed manner and by preserving their useful life as long as possible, in a truly integrated approach. Finally, let’s continue to lobby the APVMA to introduce a special registration classification for biorational pesticides that are truly environmentally friendly.

About the authors
Since their retirement from NSW DPI, Marilyn Steiner and Stephen Goodwin have established a new business, Biocontrol Solutions, located on Mangrove Mountain on the NSW Central Coast. Biocontrol Solutions is a consulting company in the area of IPM in protected crops, particularly in the development and use of biocontrol agents. Marilyn and Stephen between them have in excess of 50 years experience. Email:  Ω

PH&G March/April 2008 / Issue 99

Issue 95: Bioinsecticide Breakthrough

Issue 95
July/August – 2007
Story Title: Bioinsecticide Breakthrough
by: Ana Ollo Hualde

A new bioinsecticide – non-contaminant and harmless, and is highly effective against the most common greenhouse pest in Almeria, Spain.

A research team at the Public University of Navarre (Spain), led by Professor in Plant Production, Primitivo Caballero Murillo, has developed a new natural bioinsecticide which is non-contaminant and harmless to humans and animals (including other insects) but is, nevertheless, very effective against the most common greenhouse pest in the Almeria region and other areas.

The patent is to be exploited for the first time in Spain by the main Fruit & Vegetable Crop and Export Producers’ Association in Almeria, COEXPHAL, that brings together more than 90 companies, 60 of them cooperatives in which some 10,000 farmers work, and who produce 80% of the fruit and vegetable harvest in this Andalusian province.

It is an important milestone in the transfer to society of applied technology and research and developed by the Public University of Navarre – a success story of cooperation between University and enterprise.

Clean, environmentally-friendly technologies
The Crop Protection Research Group at the University School of Agricultural Engineers of the Public University of Navarre have been working for a number of years now on developing various biological pesticides by means of clean and environmentally-friendly technologies.

One of the most relevant recent contributions has been the molecular and insecticide characterization of a baculovirus which affects the Small Spotted Willow (UK)/beet armyworm (US), Spodoptera exigua. This lepidoptera is the pest responsible for the greatest damage to the main greenhouse crops in Almeria such as tomato, pepper, watermelon, melon, cucumber and aubergine (eggplant), amongst others. It is a pest that causes great production costs and significant economic loss.

Sweet green pepper greenhouse in Almeria, Spain.

In order to control the pest, over the past 60 years systematic and almost exclusive use has been made of chemical pesticides. This abuse has produced quite a number of problems, such as the development of resistance by the insect pest and the accumulation of chemical waste in the environment which has led to a situation that is non-sustainable. Moreover, the European norms limiting waste have to be complied with when marketing fruit and vegetables.

Research teams throughout the world are currently working on the development of bioinsecticides which enable the provision of protection systems for sustainable crops and which are safe for the health of people and the conservation of the environment. In this respect, one of the most promising alternatives is the series of bioinsecticides based on the baculovirus. These pathogenic virus of insects bring together highly desirable insecticide properties – good efficaciousness, high ecological selectivity and the non-generation of toxic waste. Moreover, its high compatibility with most pest control methods (including with other biological control agents and chemical control) has to be underlined. All this has been helped by the fact that it is the only virus recommended by the FAO (Food & Agriculture Organization) at the UN and approved by WHO (World Health Organization) for use as biological control agents. There are currently more than 30 bioinsecticides based on this type of technology.

COEXPHAL producers’ association market the product
The results from the research team have enabled the application for taking out a patent on the utilities which certain genotypes of this baculovirus have for the control of the Spodoptera pest in greenhouse fruit and vegetable crops in the south of Spain.

More specifically, the patent has been taken out on six new genotypes of the nuclear polyhydron virus of the Spodoptera, which has shown its specific efficacy in the larvae of this insect. In this respect, the team has invented a product that involves clean and safe technology as it does not leave any toxic waste either for crops, humans or animals.

The success of this new bioinsecticide caught the attention of the main Fruit & Vegetable Producers’ Association in Almeria, COEXPHAL, with which the researchers have signed two research contracts over the past two years. The aim of these was to undertake two projects to determine the insecticide potential of this baculovirus for the control of Spodoptera over more than 300 hectares of market garden greenhouses in Almeria. The results showed that the patented baculovirus protects the crops better than any other control method that has been used to date (mainly various chemical pesticides). Moreover, the use of the baculovirus significantly favours the more extensive use of biological control in greenhouse areas and eliminates the problems of the waste generated on using chemical pesticides.

The farmers themselves, the professional experts, the cooperatives and the research team scientists from the Public University of Navarre have all viewed these results very positively. Proof of this is that, in the market gardening zone of Almeria, a demand has been generated for the treatment next year of several thousand hectares with the baculovirus developed at the Public University of Navarre.

The Public University of Navarre has transferred this technology to COEXPHAL by means of signing an exclusive licence contract for the exploitation of the invention, which is currently pending a patent.

This means that the Association will exclusively exploit this invention, enabling it to use, manufacture and sell this bioinsecticide. In exchange, the Public University of Navarre will receive 180,000 euros. Besides, each year over the duration of the 20-year contract, COEXPHAL will earmark 4.2% of the sales for carrying out R&D work or for consultations related to the development of the patent.

For further information contact:
Ana Ollo Hualde, Nafarroako Unibertsitate Publikoa
Ph: (+34) 948 169033