Monday, September 14, 2009

Biological control of plant pests

Biological Control measures at FitzGerald Nurseries

At FitzGerald Nurseries we have a strong commitment to achieve pest control through biological methods. Strict hygiene and close observation of crops is necessary to prevent pests establishing in the first place. Staff are being trained to identify pests, biological predators and they are familiar with Integrated Pest Management methods.

The following are pests successfully controlled at our nursery using Biological controls:

Vine Weevil (Otiorhynchus sulcatus):
We treat all our crops with a nematode (Steinerema) in April when general temperatures are above ten degrees centigrade and again in September by drenching with Nemasys L. The timing is very important to catch the Weevil larvae before they pupate. These treatments have given us practically 100% control on all our crops whether indoors or outdoors. It also means that we don’t use harmful chemicals in our composts or as sprays and have no subsequent handling problems with staff and customers.

Scarid Fly( Bradysia):
Up until 2007 scarid fly were causing problems in our young plant propagation areas. We introduced Nemasys F, a nematode formulation that achieves very good control and changed our cultural and watering practices. Nematodes are applied as a drench through the irrigation lines every two weeks all year round. This has the effect of never giving the Scarid a chance to build up their population to any great level. It also helps to control Thrips that occasionally occur. We find that it is cost effective (especially when done using the irrigation lines) compared to hazardous chemicals that did not always work well. There are no problems with re-entry periods for staff working and no effect on other biological controls we have in the plant propagation areas.

Spider Mites (Tetanychus):
In previous years two spotted Red Spider Mite have been a serious problem to contain and was a major problem to control with chemicals. Last year as a test we introduced predator mites (Phytoseiulus persimilis and Amblyseius californicus) in a contained area that was infected with Red spider mites on Clematis. We found that it not only contained the infection but eradicated it within one month and kept the plants ‘clean’ for the rest of the year. The mites were introduced at a rate of 10 per M2 every two weeks until control was achieved and then they were introduced at 5 mites per M2 after that until September.
After that initial success we then decided to go nursery wide and treated all covered growing areas since last April at a low rate(5 mites per M2) until the end of May and then at a higher rate in the months of July and August(10 mites per M2). During the one hot spell in June we used the Amblyseius as they cope better with warmer extremes in temperature than Phytoseiulus. We will again lower the introduction rate for September as the chances of infection reduces again. So far there are massive improvements in the health of our crops this year and we believe that next year there will be even less Red Spider Mite because we have broken the potential of eggs being laid over winter. Apart from the joy of not having to use chemicals, there where no upsets to deliveries or staff by having to apply chemicals.

Thrips (Frankliniella occidentalis):
We have occasional break outs of Thrips mainly on plants brought in to the nursery. We find that the application of Nemasys F reduces their numbers but we also introduced this year Amblyseius cucumeris to our arsenal of predatory mites. They quickly brought a problem area back under control and have kept it virtually free of Thrips since then. They also have the ability to survive on flower pollen etc, when there are no other forms of food for them available so they are always ready should another Thrip come along.

Apart from the introduced predators we have noticed that other naturally occurring predators have made their presence felt since we have hung the sprayers up. Mainly Aphid are being much reduced by a parasitic wasp and some lacewing are noticeable too. Spray deposits are not a problem any more on our shiny leaved plants and so the crops look healthier as well.
This we hope is just the beginning of our long term plan to eliminate insecticides and fungicides from our production but already we are glad to report our main aim to eliminate insecticides is becoming a reality. We are working on a range of activities including use of recycled composted waste for our potting substrate, water recycling and rain harvesting. It is satisfying to be making progress on this ongoing commitment to sound modern environmentally friendly practices.
MyPlant Team.

Friday, September 11, 2009

International Plant Propagators Conference visits Ireland

International Plant Propagators Society World Conference.

For the first time in the organisations history Ireland hosts the International Plant Propagators World conference. This conference will not return to Ireland within the next 30 years so its a great privilege to be honoured with so many prestigious plant propagators and growers from all over the globe. Visitors from New Zealand, Australia, USA, South Africa, UK, Scandanavia and a number of other countries will be converging on Kilkenny from the 15th of September to 18th of September at Lyrath Estate Hotel convention centre.
On Wednesday 16th approximately 100 delegates will visit FitzGerald Nurseries and trials field where the official tree planting ceremony will take place beside our 2000 year old Celtic ring fort where the first farmers in this area would have settled. Its fitting that this planting takes place adjacent to where the first Celtic agricultural activities occurred in this immediate vicinity. Visits to local nurseries in Kilkenny, Waterford and Tipperary are planned and full schedule of events can be found here.
The International Plant Propagators Society was founded in 1951 and is now organised into eight Regions world wide. Each Region is run by its own local committee chaired by its own President, Bernard Brennan is the President of the GB&I region for 2009. Each IPPS region manages its own financesThe IPPS Region of Great Britain and Ireland, includes members not only from the UK and the Republic of Ireland but from most other member states of the European Union as well as many countries in Eastern Europe. In fact more than 20% of the 450-strong membership is based in ‘continental’ Europe.The Region organises a series of area meetings on an annual basis where leading nurseries, research locations, outstanding gardens and centres of horticultural excellence are visited and ideas and expertise are openly shared. Workshops are offered to help transfer and share current best practice within the plant production industry.Annual Conference brings together leading experts from the industry who share their well researched and accumulated wisdom with members. This technical expertise and knowledge is shared with the industry at large through the IPPS Proceedings.

Follow this Blog and watch out for further blog reports and pictures on on Twitter @PatFitzGerald during the conference over the coming week.