INTEGRATED PEST MANAGEMENT
Greener plants through natural pest control
For over a decade, we've been practicing Integrated Pest Management (IPM) as opposed to old school treatment methods of heavily applying harsh pesticides to treat every pest issue in the greenhouse. Sometimes this means using nature’s own army to tackle an insect issue - using “good bugs” (or even beneficial fungus) to fight the “bad bugs”. Other times, it’s using growing methods that reduce the frequency of disease - increasing air flow, watering from the bottom, providing proper water and nutrients to ensure strong, healthy plants, choosing to grow pest-resistant varieties, etc.
In IPM, chemical treatments are only used when absolutely every other option has been considered, and if they are used, it is done as responsibly as possible. This pest management method is used as both a preventative practice and a treatment response to an identified problem. “Scouting” and beneficial applications are done in the retail and production greenhouses at least weekly, as well as on any incoming plants from other companies.
Our approach to pest treatment
By far, the most interesting part of IPM is our use of beneficial insects (good bugs) to eliminate harmful insects (bad bugs). The beneficial program is fairly extensive and far more specific than ladybugs and praying mantis! Our preferred predator insect will vary based on the pest we are treating, the temperature in the greenhouse, the length of the day or amount of sunlight available to the bugs, and the plants that have the problem.
You can see our beneficials in action in our Koppert Sachets, which can often be found on certain species of our annuals or houseplants. These sachets contain predatory mites, a short-term food source to support their time in shipping, and bran as a storage medium. (Note: if your plant has one of these sachets in the pot, you don’t need to do anything with them! The bag is permeable and the beneficials will leave it on the hunt for food and shelter).
A similar bran mix can often be seen sprinkled on leaves throughout the greenhouse if a generalist treatment has been applied recently.
Beneficials are categorized depending on their eating preferences into either "generalist" or "pest-specific predators". Generalist insects feed on a wide variety of soft-bodied insect species such as aphids, thrips, mealy bugs, and spider mites. Since generalist insects target these types of harmful soft-bodied insects, we aim to maintain established populations throughout the entire season. On the other hand, pest-specific predators are used on plants that are prone to one known “bad bug”, or to treat when a problem arises. A great example of a pest-specific predator is a parasitic wasp known as Aphidius ervi that will lay their eggs inside aphids and parasitize the body, leaving the shell of the aphid behind. Gross or cool? We think both!
Gentler growing in our greenhouse environment
There are a number of reasons we prefer this method of pest management, and the most obvious is to greatly reduce our environmental impact. Additionally, if there are pests on a plant, one application of beneficial insects continues to work until they run out of their food source (the bad bugs), even if the plant moves, whereas pesticides must be applied repeatedly and are useless once the plant leaves the greenhouse. Avoiding destructive pesticides is also in our best interest as a grower, as one application of pesticides can wipe out the beneficials we have spent time and effort applying all season - most of the time, it has to be a one-or-the-other type of approach.
While we don’t claim to be 100% pest free (no environmentally-responsible greenhouse is), we do our utmost to ensure that plants leave our care pest-free. Through continuous monitoring and regular treatments, spotted pest problems are treated and withheld from sale until they are resolved in order to ensure our plants are up to our, and our customers’ expectations. If a problem is accidentally missed and your purchased plant has a pest issue, please contact us within the first week and we will be more than happy to find a solution with you!
Our beneficial insects are sourced from an Ontario-based company called Koppert Biological Systems. If you wish to learn more about IPM and beneficial insects (or purchase some of your own), check out their website as it’s packed full of information! If you're looking to purchase beneficials for your garden or indoor collection, be sure to do some research through the site as not all predators will work for every pest and every environment.