CEU Series: Back A United Front To Fight And Defeat Pests

An evaluation of last season’s challenges is a critical part of planning for success in the upcoming season. Among the most important considerations to review is the farm’s Pesticide Resistance Management Plan so effective pesticides remain working assets.

Farmers and crop consultants develop their Integrated Pest Management Plan (IPM) as a strategy combining a series of coordinated, cost-effective pest management methods to suppress pests below a defined aesthetic or economic threshold while having minimal impacts on non-target organisms and the environment. These IPM plans vary according to geographic region and crops grown but all are scientifically-based and regard pesticides as a critical component in the last line of defense against pests.

Today’s highly-valued crops coupled with heavy pest pressure from the subtropical South Florida environment requires an IPM program to include multiple control tactics to mitigate pest damage and maintain crop quality standards. The first line of defense against pests generally begins with principle of excluding pests from the cropping system. IPM plans also include everything from the principles of cultural practices and good sanitation to crop scouting, proper pest identification, and threat assessment, to the management decision, and management of pesticide resistance. Additional information may be found in the UF/IFAS EDIS Publication #IPM-200, Introduction to the Growers IPM Guide for Florida Tomato and Pepper Production by N.C. Leppla.

Exclusion tactics aim to prevent or at least delay disease development and insect establishment. Early onset of pest infestation can be reduced through the use of physical barriers like plastic, mulch, or dark heavy-fabric ground covers blocking sunlight and preventing seed establishment. Nets and fine-screens may also be utilized in the field and in structures like hoop-houses, shade-houses, and greenhouses to impede pest entry. Another exclusionary practice that may be employed is inspecting young seedlings rigorously and removing sickly plants before contamination spreads from greenhouse transplants to the field. Rogueing out such threats can mean the difference between replanting the crop at a total loss and containing the issue as a minor setback. Similarly, exclusion could also include purchasing weed-free and disease-free seed. This sort of tactic can sometimes be regarded as a helpful recommendation to mitigate pests but other times, they are required by state or local regulations.

This is just such the case for lettuce seed planted in the Everglades Agricultural Area of Palm Beach County due to a history of combating lettuce mosaic virus (LMV). This serious virus disease of lettuce has been declared a nuisance and a major economic threat to the production of lettuce in Florida. Lettuce seed and/or plants moved into, sold or planted in a commercial lettuce production area in Florida must be certified as having been tested for lettuce mosaic virus by a testing facility approved by the Division of Plant Industry. Additional information on state regulations regarding lettuce and LMV can be found in CHAPTER 5B-38 (LETTUCE MOSAIC) of the Florida Administrative Code and Florida Administrative Register. Further details about south Florida’s lettuce industry may be found in the UF/IFAS EDIS Publication # CIR1460, Florida Crop/Pest Management Profile: Lettuce by Mark A. Mossler and Esther Dunn.

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