7 Steps To See If Biocontrols Pencil Out For Your Operation

Biocontrols 2017Have you considered adding biocontrols to your operation? If you have, there’s no doubt you’ve already weighed the potential costs, benefits, and risks of doing so.

Much research has been done demonstrating the efficacy of biocontrol products to control a variety of pests and diseases, but the best way to evaluate whether or not it will pencil out for your operation is by diving in and conducting tests that allow you to see visible results.

Here are seven key points to keep in mind to help guide you in your decision to use biocontrols.

1. Plot Test
According to Dave Peck, General Manager of Manzanita Farms in Santa Maria, CA, the first thing any grower should do before deciding to use biocontrols is a side by side test using biocontrols versus traditional control measures to determine efficacy.

“Depending on the type of biocontrol you’re considering, the size of the test could vary based on a few beds to a few acres,” he explains. “If you’re using an insect or a mite that walks around, you have to have a pretty-good-size plot in order to make sure you’re counting the effectiveness of that biocontrol agent because they do move around quite a bit.”

Peck farms on more than 350 acres of both organic and conventional strawberries, and is currently using Bacillus bacteria for larval worm control as well as two species of predatory mites for two-spotted mite control, which have both proved to be consistent in his fields.

Traditionally, he has tested biological controls on his strawberry crops for three years before deciding to incorporate any products into his rotation. Biological organisms are largely affected by weather, and the three-year period allows him to see how the products operate under a variety of conditions.

“Temperatures and humidity levels are extremely important for some of these biocontrol agents, and sometimes you have to experiment for a few seasons to learn exactly what your thresholds are for your particular crop in your particular area,” he says.

2. Scout For Pest Populations
Another key factor in the decision to use biocontrols comes down to scouting, Peck says. It can help track the population of your pests to better determine which type of control measure to use, and ultimately whether or not biocontrols may be necessary.

“You’ve got to be able to know exactly what the true population of your pests are, and maintain a very consistent program all season long so you know when things start to get out of hand before it gets too late,” he says.

After you’ve applied your biocontrol, scouting for pest populations can help you understand when you’ve put out enough, when it’s time to be patient and wait for results, and when it might be time to apply more.

3. Evaluate Your Cost/Benefit Analysis
Because the cost of biocontrols is traditionally higher than most conventional crop protection products, making sure the benefits of these products outweigh the costs should be paramount in your decision to use them.

“If you have a really good scouting program, you can track the history of your pest populations during the season. For example, if you can see that your miticide bill is equal to or lower than it was before, and your two-spotted mite populations remain below economic threshold, then you can be reasonably sure you’re moving in the right direction,” he says.

4. Consider Your Crops
The type of crops you grow is going to make a huge impact on your decision to use biocontrols, Peck explains.

“Every crop is going to lend itself to use one biocontrol or another; a lot of that depends on what kind of pests you’re dealing with,” he says. “The main question to ask is, does that crop afford the correct environment for that biological organism to feed and reproduce?”

5. Evaluate Your Materials
Make sure you’ve properly assessed which biological materials are appropriate for your crops and mix well with other chemicals you’re using, as some traditional crop protectants can kill biological agents, Peck says.

Unfortunately, he discovered this the hard way after using sulfur to control powdery mildew in his strawberry crop, which led to a complete decimation of his predatory mites.

“We ended up having to use something more expensive to control mildew, but in the end it was less detrimental on the predatory mites. That was probably the hardest lesson we had to learn,” he says.

Fortunately the damage was not permanent, and he was able to reinoculate his field with predatory mites to get the populations back up.

“I think a lot of growers have trouble because sometimes they have to give up something very economical because it hinders their biological control, but in the long run they save money by using biological controls. Sometimes that’s a tough bridge to cross,” he says.

6. Get Expert Advice
The manufactures of biocontrols should be your primary point of contact if you have any questions about usage, Peck says.

“There is less industry-wide data available than for chemicals, but the people who manufacture the materials are going to have more experience than just about anybody. They’ll know if you should try it, or if they think it might not be effective,” he explains.

After that, Peck suggests contacting a farm adviser who has direct experience working with biocontrols, Pest Control Advisers (PCAs), or even other farmers who have experienced success — or failure for that matter — with the products you’d like to use.

7. Be Patient
The wide variation in temperatures that you may see in one season or even between seasons may mean a significant amount of time before you see results from your biocontrol products.

“Something may work wonderfully one season, and the next season you see nothing at all. And that’s just a normal part of the process,” Peck explains.

It’s important not to get disheartened if you don’t see results quickly. Peck says to be persistent and patient with your testing because the results you’re looking for may be just around the corner.

Topics: , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

One comment on “7 Steps To See If Biocontrols Pencil Out For Your Operation

  1. A microfloral shift to beneficials on and in the roots and in the foliage/fruits is the right direction. Inoculation with living root organisms additive to Rhizobia will be the future…and endophytes are key. Shifting the microflora away from pathogens by occupying the root, foliage, flower or fruit is the goal. We are almost there with certain strains compatible with existing strains to mak a multifunctional beneficial blend. The latest Biofungicides will set up housekeeping within plants and remove some or most pathogens. Seed will be cleaned. Roots more able to support healthy top growth. Protection of fruit from flower to harvest is coming. The new tools will be different and require special use patterns…these are not silver bullets. Pre inoculation ahead of disease pressure is critical. Hire the Guard Dog ahead to the breakin!!
    The Guard Dog will protect the plant over a much longer growth period…perhaps the entire flower to fruit or nut from one or two applications. The catch is inoculation. Root or drench applicationas are consistent. Careful weather based timing
    and often evening application will be necessary to achieve colonization. Guidance to growers from Consultants will be necessary to shift foliar application practices to achieve success.

Biocontrols Conference Stories
Biocontrols Conference
September 1, 2017
Silicon: a Biocontrol Agent that Boosts Plant Immunity
Quality and profitability are two important factors that drive our agricultural markets. We have fine-tuned our cultivation processes over centuries Read More
Biocontrols Conference
August 14, 2017
Biocontrols: The South African Fruit Growers’ Perspective
While insect and disease pressure differs from U.S., South African fruit growers say education and slow transitions make for successful integration of biological products. Read More
sprayer nozzles
Biocontrols Conference
July 31, 2017
11 New Biocontrol Products You Need to Know
One of the highlights of the Biocontrols Conference & Expo Series is getting an early look at some of the Read More
Biocontrols Conference
June 11, 2017
Marrone Bio Innovations Enters into Distribution Agreement with Jet Harvest Solutions
MBI to market Jet-Ag fungicide/bactericide to help growers combat plant disease and control bacteria, mold, and yeasts. Read More
Biocontrols Conference
April 3, 2017
5 Graphics that Show How Biocontrols are Used by Vegetable Growers
American Vegetable Grower was curious about how biocontrols are impacting the industry. So we took a look at our State of the Vegetable Industry Survey to see what patterns may emerge. Read More
Biocontrols Conference
April 3, 2017
Silicon: Plant Nutrient and Biocontrol Agent
Editor’s note: Wendy Zellner made an in-depth presentation on silicon and its use as a biocontrol agent in vegetable crops Read More
Biocontrols Conference
March 30, 2017
New Horticultural Technology Tools at Your Fingertips [Opinion]
The new technology of fruit growing may not be what we expected. In fact, it’s likely more than we imagined. Read More
Suzanne Wainwright-Evans speaks to crowd at Biocontrols USA West 2017
Biocontrols Conference
March 6, 2017
More Growers Willing to Bet on Biocontrols
Industry event highlighting alternative pest management methods draws interested crowd to Reno. Read More
Biocontrols Conference
March 15, 2016
Focus On IPM: Biocontrols Provide Progressive Grower Solutions
The Biocontrols USA 2016 Conference & Expo explored new ways to make biological control a mainstream part of your pest management program. Read More
Biocontrols Conference
February 9, 2016
Biopesticides And IPM
Dr. Surendra Dara, Strawberry and Vegetable Crops Advisor and Affiliated IPM Advisor with University of California Cooperative Extension, has long Read More
Biocontrols Conference
February 8, 2016
7 Steps To See If Biocontrols Pencil Out For Your Operation
Have you considered adding biocontrols to your operation? If you have, there’s no doubt you’ve already weighed the potential costs, Read More
Biocontrols Conference
March 23, 2015
Biocontrols Event Draws Rave Reviews
Conference devoted to discussion of biological means to control pests and diseases held last month in Fresno, CA. Read More
Biocontrols Conference
March 9, 2015
Growers Go In-Depth At Biocontrols 2015 Conference & Tradeshow
The first-of-its-kind event brought growers, researchers, regulators, and suppliers together for a two-day discussion on the latest biocontrols tools and technologies. Read More
Biocontrols Conference
February 25, 2015
Biocontrols 2015: Exhibition Sneak Preview
We take a look inside the exhibit hall at the Biocontrols 2015 Conference & Tradeshow. Read More
David Holden
Biocontrols Conference
February 18, 2015
Biopesticides, Biostimulants Show Results In Fruits And Vegetables
From biostimulants in celery and avocado to biopesticides in citrus and strawberries, consultant David Holden conducts in-the-field research that attests to the effectiveness of biocontrols. Read More
The Latest
Biocontrols Conference
September 13, 2017
Get Better Results From Your Biopesticid…
Softer crop protection programs are becoming a must in specialty crop production. Growers who aren’t learning more about their options Read More
Biocontrols Conference
September 11, 2017
The Grower’s Take: Citrus, HLB, and Biol…
Uncle Matt’s Organic orange juice brand has enjoyed steady growth since its 2002 inception. The brand’s success is due to Read More
Biocontrols Conference
September 1, 2017
Dispelling the Rumors: Using Biologicals…
Whether you’re a grower, packer, processor, or retailer, you have experienced the dramatic shift in consumer preference for sustainable practices Read More
Biocontrols Conference
September 1, 2017
Silicon: a Biocontrol Agent that Boosts …
Quality and profitability are two important factors that drive our agricultural markets. We have fine-tuned our cultivation processes over centuries Read More
Biocontrols Conference
August 14, 2017
Biocontrols: The South African Fruit Gro…
While insect and disease pressure differs from U.S., South African fruit growers say education and slow transitions make for successful integration of biological products. Read More
Biocontrols Conference
July 31, 2017
11 New Biocontrol Products You Need to K…
One of the highlights of the Biocontrols Conference & Expo Series is getting an early look at some of the Read More
Biocontrols Conference
June 11, 2017
Marrone Bio Innovations Enters into Dist…
MBI to market Jet-Ag fungicide/bactericide to help growers combat plant disease and control bacteria, mold, and yeasts. Read More
Biocontrols Conference
April 3, 2017
5 Graphics that Show How Biocontrols are…
American Vegetable Grower was curious about how biocontrols are impacting the industry. So we took a look at our State of the Vegetable Industry Survey to see what patterns may emerge. Read More
Biocontrols Conference
April 3, 2017
Silicon: Plant Nutrient and Biocontrol A…
Editor’s note: Wendy Zellner made an in-depth presentation on silicon and its use as a biocontrol agent in vegetable crops Read More
Biocontrols Conference
March 30, 2017
New Horticultural Technology Tools at Yo…
The new technology of fruit growing may not be what we expected. In fact, it’s likely more than we imagined. Read More
Biocontrols Conference
March 6, 2017
More Growers Willing to Bet on Biocontro…
Industry event highlighting alternative pest management methods draws interested crowd to Reno. Read More
Biocontrols Conference
March 15, 2016
Focus On IPM: Biocontrols Provide Progre…
The Biocontrols USA 2016 Conference & Expo explored new ways to make biological control a mainstream part of your pest management program. Read More
Biocontrols Conference
February 9, 2016
Biopesticides And IPM
Dr. Surendra Dara, Strawberry and Vegetable Crops Advisor and Affiliated IPM Advisor with University of California Cooperative Extension, has long Read More
Biocontrols Conference
February 8, 2016
7 Steps To See If Biocontrols Pencil Out…
Have you considered adding biocontrols to your operation? If you have, there’s no doubt you’ve already weighed the potential costs, Read More
Biocontrols Conference
March 23, 2015
Biocontrols Event Draws Rave Reviews
Conference devoted to discussion of biological means to control pests and diseases held last month in Fresno, CA. Read More
Biocontrols Conference
March 9, 2015
Growers Go In-Depth At Biocontrols 2015 …
The first-of-its-kind event brought growers, researchers, regulators, and suppliers together for a two-day discussion on the latest biocontrols tools and technologies. Read More
Biocontrols Conference
February 25, 2015
Biocontrols 2015: Exhibition Sneak Previ…
We take a look inside the exhibit hall at the Biocontrols 2015 Conference & Tradeshow. Read More
Biocontrols Conference
February 18, 2015
Biopesticides, Biostimulants Show Result…
From biostimulants in celery and avocado to biopesticides in citrus and strawberries, consultant David Holden conducts in-the-field research that attests to the effectiveness of biocontrols. Read More