Martin Donnelly, UK sales development manager.
Having embraced integrated pest management (IPM) some twenty years ago, UK growers of protected edible crops – salads, vegetables and more recently soft fruit crops – have played a key role in its development worldwide.
With supermarkets looking to reduce or eliminate pesticide residues, IPM has become a necessity for produce to be accepted for sale. Anyone visiting these nurseries growing edible crops will be aware of the strict hygiene protocols that are non-negotiable. Biological control programmes - utilising natural predators and parasites - are very common. Regular scouting of the crop with accurate report writing is very important and has been standard practice for over 25 years.
With many chemical active ingredients now withdrawn from the market, it is increasingly difficult for ornamental growers to find that silver bullet for controlling certain pests, diseases and weeds on their nurseries. By producing an Integrated Pest Management Plan (IPMP) they can plan ahead and create a reliable and robust plan of action to achieve good control without the need to solely rely on traditional chemical control products.
An IPMP is a blueprint for crop protection throughout the nursery encompassing all aspects of good nursery practice including: sourcing of plant material, hygiene, quarantine areas, crop walking or scouting and a good IPM programme. For this to work all employees need to buy in to this way of working as any IPMP is only as strong as its weakest link.
An easy way to start things off is to produce a SWOT analysis of the current crop protection plan, if indeed there is one. This will focus the mind and tease out the problem areas and where action needs to be taken. It is important to note that sometimes it only takes some very small changes to reap huge benefits. A good IPMP does not have to be expensive or particularly time consuming it is mainly a way of working in a consistent manner. Using products that are IPM compatible and incorporated in the growing media can also help. A product such as Prestop fits in well and can help protect the plant from key diseases at the point of potting. Using these types of products cuts labour costs and reduces losses later on.
Biological control companies provide online support with manuals, side effect databases and example programmes along with pest profiles and photos for identification. Manufacturers of plant protection products will also have information on compatibility and how their products fit within an IPM system.
It is never too late to embark on an IPM system and in a very short time the benefits are usually seen. Getting the basics right provides a good foundation to build on and will result in a sustainable method of protecting plants and the environment for years to come.