Remaining flexible and preparing for change

20 July 2021
  • Whastsapp

Remaining flexible and preparing for change remain key IPM strategies, notes expert

Just like the changeable British weather, no growing year is the same. Growers of protected ornamental crops would therefore be wise to take a flexible approach to their aphid and whitefly control, notes Fleurie Nursery’s technical manager David Hide.

Technical Manager, David Hide, writes for 'The Garden' magazine - Tristram  Plants

“Remain flexible and prepare to adapt” is a mantra that could probably be applied to most aspects of life. Those of us who are still working from home, for example, could probably do with improving our flexibility. After adapting to our home office environment, months of being sat in the same spot have rendered us so stiff-jointed that a little yoga wouldn’t go amiss.

Admittedly, those of you who spend your days busily moving around a nursery are less likely to have turned chair shaped. However, as David Hide – the maker of the “remain flexible and prepare to adapt” mantra – points out, you would be wise to apply this philosophy to the management of aphids and whiteflies.

Speaking during an AHDB webinar entitled Selection and use of biological control agents in the production of ornamental crops (aphid and whitefly management), David reveals that Fleurie uses Aphidius colemani and Aphidius Ervi for aphid control, as well as Aphidoletes and – most recently – Eupeodes corollae (hoverflies). To control whitefly, the nursery mainly uses Encarsia.

Whilst managing glasshouses’ IPM programmes obviously requires a lot of organisation and planning, growers also need to remain flexible and be prepared for change. Take this spring, for example, when even the sun appeared to still be working from home in its pyjamas.

“We load in [our aphid and whitefly controls] early season but it does depend on the weather. This year – not so early! I would have historically started a programme for a grower which say that started in week 10, 12 ,14, and we started piling in the bios. I don’t think there’s any need for that, I think you should put them in at the point that you feel the pest populations will begin to increase.”

Crucially, growers should aim to keep their pest population low in the first instance. With this in mind, each and every member of the team at Fleurie regularly crop walks. “As a practiced crop walker, you begin to see pests very early and that’s the most important thing.”

Furthermore, Fleurie – which is part of Farplants and one of three nurseries making up Tristam Plants – tailors its IPM programme to the needs of each of its crops. David explains: “We have a fresh start every year and fresh starts throughout the year, based on the nature of our crops.”

He also asks: “Is there such a thing as a good clean up spray? I’m not a fan of them to be honest. I’m a fan of applying pesticides when I need to. What we do is we have no crop – its either dispatched or – as [was the case] last year on occasion – composted. So, in most instances, there’s no need in most instances to do any clean up sprays.”

Another tip that David divulges is for nursery staff to learn as much as they can about the growing environment in which they work. “I think the best way to deliver IPM is to have a level of knowledge and expertise yourself. I think it’s really important to get a really good relationship with your suppliers, to learn as much as possible from them – but not to be ruled by them. Over the years, you become more confident as you learn about your own particular environment.”

He uses the example of sticky traps, which he has chosen not to use to monitor pests – even though some horticultural suppliers/agronomists advocate it. “Yes, we monitor all of the time but, no, we don’t use sticky traps. I think working across five sites, using sticky traps to monitor, effectively, would take an inordinate amount of time. And also, our crops are moving in and out of our glasshouses all of the time and so I don’t personally see it as a viable option.” David does, however, believe that sticky traps “are excellent for mass trapping” and therefore remain a useful IPM tool.

As new and novel approaches to IPM are constantly being developed, Fleurie last year worked with Biobest to trial hoverflies for the first time. “We had no pest problems whatsoever in the pepper crop that season. Whether or not it’s to do with the introduction of the hoverflies is always difficult to tell. But we are going to use them this year, so we think there’s value in that.”

He adds that he is keen on involving the team members in new initiatives, which is why they employed a team member to help oversee the hoverflies’ introduction. “How can you deliver your IPM programme effectively unless you engage with those people delivering it on the ground? That’s a massively important point.”

For those production team members looking to pick up a few new tips on IPM, David recommends looking on LinkedIn. “There’s lots of snippets of bite-sized, immediate, information on there [by companies such as Biobest], which takes you deeper into the subject. So, I would always recommend that.”