Biological control — whether you’re talking about biochemicals, microbial products, beneficials, or even the relatively new category of biostimulants — is moving into the mainstream and playing a more prominent role in specialty crop production. However, there’s still a significant segment of growers who aren’t using these products as part of their integrated pest management programs.
According to 2017 State of the Industry Surveys from Greenhouse Grower®, American Vegetable Grower®, and American Fruit Grower® magazines, 62% of greenhouse growers, 55% of vegetable growers, and 44% of fruit growers say they are using some form of biocontrol. Those number are trending up over the last several years, but there’s still a gap between actual usage and the potential these new technologies offer growers.
Softer crop protection — including tools like biocontrol — is where we’re headed. Consumers are demanding it. Your customers are demanding it. Growers need to understand these tools and how they work or you’re at risk of being left behind.
To help the industry learn more about incorporating this technology, 250 growers, crop consultants, researchers, and biological product suppliers gathered in Orlando, FL, for the Biocontrols USA East 2017 Conference & Expo Oct. 11-13. This was the fourth U.S.-based event in Meister Media Worldwide’s Biocontrols Conference & Expo Series, but the first dedicated specifically for the needs of growers in the eastern half of the country. The conference was held in cooperation with the Biological Products Industry Alliance (BPIA) Fall Meeting and Symposium.
The program included the full gamut of topics designed to help growers use biocontrol in their operations more efficiently and effectively. Presenters offered advice on managing key pests including whitefly, spotted wing drosophila, fire blight, and citrus greening, and covered tips on choosing the best application equipment and methods, and using biocontrol as a marketing message for your business. Attendees also heard about many of the latest or soon-to-be-released biocontrol products during the program and from 35 exhibitors in the Expo.
Breakout sessions focused specifically on the needs of vegetable, citrus, greenhouse ornamental, and fruit growers. Watch for more detail on these sessions in the coming weeks.
In addition to the conference program, attendees took part in a biocontrol field tour, learning firsthand from growers and researchers how biological control programs — in a number of different forms — are being applied in Florida production. The tour included stops at H&A Farms to see its berry production and packinghouse operation, Mercer Botanicals and its greenhouse ornamentals production, Long & Scott Farms’ vegetable operation, one of Uncle Matt’s Organic citrus groves, and the University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Mid-Florida Research and Education Center. Each tour stop also included a demonstration of different biocontrol tools and techniques.
At the conclusion of the conference program, growers had an opportunity to attend a workshop, “Building a Biocontrol Program for Your Growing System,” hosted by Buglady Consulting’s Suzanne Wainwright-Evans.
The Biocontrols USA East 2017 Conference & Expo was made possible through cooperation with BPIA, and sponsors Certis USA, Valent Biosciences, Biobest, Bioline Agrosciences, BioSafe Systems, Inocucor, Keyplex, and STK Stockton.
The next event in the Biocontrols Conference & Expo Series will be Biocontrols USA West, taking place March 7-9, 2018 in San Diego. Watch for more information on the conference in the coming weeks at BiocontrolsConference.com.