IPM strategy pushes away pests while pulling in beneficials

02/18/2013 04:51:00 PM
Renee Stern

Preserving beneficials

But companion plantings reduce land available for crops, perhaps a greater concern on smaller acreages, Tyler-Julian says.

All these push-pull pieces together are crucial because growers can induce problems stemming from Western flower thrips, Funderburk. Pyrethroids can take out minute pirate bugs and other beneficials.

Danger also can come from efforts to control pepper weevil, another serious pest.

"The only control we have is pesticide that knocks hell out of the beneficials," McAvoy says.

Nightshade and other alternate hosts may offer a softer option for weevil control, he says. Researchers are looking into releasing beneficials in nightshade during summer months to knock down weevil populations.

"The point to remember is you're trying to grow a crop, not kill insects," Funderburk says.

Plants can sustain some insect injury before reaching a crop-damaging level.

"When you spray before you need to, you're creating damage," he says. "I've seen more damage from the overuse of pesticides than underuse."

Know which insects are in your fields, Frantz says. A thrips population may near threshold levels, but if it contains significant numbers of Florida flower thrips or is accompanied by an equally high number of predators, you may want to delay spraying.

"Let the beneficials do their job for you," he says.


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