How Biocontrols Fit into a Traditional Pest Control Program
One of the great strengths of using biocontrols is that it allows growers to use traditional chemistries less often, says Surendra Dara, Strawberry and Vegetable Crop Advisor with the University of California Cooperative Extension. Dara was speaking to a packed room at the Biocontrols USA West conference in Carlsbad, CA, hosted by Meister Media Worldwide, the parent company of American Vegetable Grower.
Chemical controls should be seen as a last resort, Dara says. Here’s how it works:
Step 1: Pick Plants that Are Host Resistant
Breeders have made considerable strides in disease-resistant varieties. Other features that can play into lessening the impact of pests are also being pursued, such as harvest timing. So make sure you use them.
Step 2: Cultural Control
There are several options available to growers in this category. If you know you’ll face a specific pest, investigate its life cycle to see how your planting dates may help you avoid key phases of the pests’ life cycles. Your irrigation or nutrient applications can also work with or against a pests’ life cycle. Finally, you can plant trap crops, rotate crops in a plot, and other technique that will make your field less hospitable to the pest you’re battling.
Step 3: Biological Control
Biological controls at this stage includes conserving natural enemies and releasing predators and parasitoids.
Step 4: Behavioral Control
This step can be a mix of biocontrol and the physical, with baits, traps, and mating disruption applied.
Step 5: Physical or Mechanical Control
Depending on the pest in question, netting or other exclusion options should be considered. In some cases, vacuuming has been shown to be effective.
Step 6: Microbial Control
Entomopathogenic microorganisms like beneficial fungi, viruses, and bacteria can reduce populations to manageable levels. Microbial metabolites also have a role in reducing populations.
Step 7: Chemical Control
Once all these methods have significantly reduced the pest presence, natural or synthetic chemical compounds will have much more traction and be much more likely to succeed.