Sustainable Strategies for Effective Pest Control

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is the practice of prevention and eradication of pests in a horticultural setting. Ultimately, IPM can drastically affect your bottom line and reduce yield if not carefully planned.

IPM includes identifying target insects, understanding the mode of action for treatment, and habitat manipulation. Very few pesticides are capable of a complete eradication in one application alone.

IPM must be a combined approach, using chemical and biological agents.

The Four-Tiered Approach to IPM:

Action Thresholds: This is the point at which pest populations or environmental conditions indicate that pest control action is needed. Sighting a single pest does not always warrant treatment.

Monitoring & Identifying Pests: IPM programs work to monitor for pests and identify them accurately. This helps appropriate control decisions to be made in conjunction with action thresholds. Physical inspections should be completed on a daily basis for pests and pathogens!

Prevention: IPM programs work to manage the crop and indoor space to prevent pests from becoming a threat. This may mean using cultural methods, such as rotating between different crops, selecting pest-resistant varieties, and planting pest-free rootstock.

Control: Effective, less risky pest controls are chosen first, including highly targeted chemicals, such as pheromones to disrupt pest mating, or mechanical control, such as trapping or weeding.

Primary Treatment Options:

Contact treatment: surfactants, rosemary oil, or alcohol spray. These types of treatments do not have residual effects, considering they are not alive.

Systemic treatments: these work well because the active ingredient is absorbed by plants and translocated throughout their vascular system. It’s important to note that you cannot use systemic treatments within a certain time frame of testing, or else it may fail you.

Biological treatments: It’s important to keep predatory insects alive. This is much like a game of rock, paper, scissors between pests.

First, the target pest or insect needs to be identified. It’s important to understand the life cycle, reproductive cycle and age of sexual maturity of the insect being treated.

Once these components have been identified, you need to find the mode of action for treatment. Ultimately, it’s important to understand how the active ingredients work against the mortality of the target pest. For example, if you have a soil dwelling pest, you would not want to use a foliar application, right?

This is why Root Aphids has become a growing problem in controlled agriculture. They can live in the root zone or canopy, reproduce quickly, and once mature, can grow wings and infest exponentially. While not incredibly resilient, their high reproductive rates and mobility has created nightmares for producers. Oh yeah, they also reproduce asexually. It’s the corona-virus of pests.

Know how something is formed, how it reproduces and how to control it. Target pest, mode of action and active ingredients are key!

Every state has their own regulations and rules when it comes to horticultural treatments. Some ingredients are allowed up to a certain level when testing, but otherwise, they may fail you. Know the half-life of the ingredient, and the threshold at which it can be detected.

For example, let’s say you are treating Root Aphids with imidacloprid. This treatment is systemic, lasting for up to 180 days in certain conditions. Because of this, you would want to avoid this treatment during the flower phase.

The environment in which the target pest lives and thrives is another key factor. This will help determine how often to apply treatments. For example, if you have white flies in a hot environment, they are most likely going to be reproducing at a rapid rate, versus if they were in a cooler environment. In this scenario, you may have to increase treatment dose or timing intervals.

Let’s continue with the whiteflies example. One option would be to treat with beauveria bassiana, the active ingredient in BotaniGard. Beauveria bassiana is considered a mycoinsecticide, also known as an entomopathogenic fungal colony. Ultimately, this means that you are treating the plant with fungal spores that invade the cuticle of the insect, killing it from the inside out. Here, fungal spore distribution is key. Beauveria bassiana has a lifespan of about 17 days. Knowing this, we can determine our treatment schedule.

If you have a heavy infestation of whiteflies, it would be appropriate to apply treatments once per week or every 5 days. If beauveria bassiana is being used as a preventative measure, apply the treatment every 7-10 days. Really, the rate and timing of treatments depends on the infestation load. Be sure to re-apply treatments before the active ingredient wears off. So, if BotaniGard’s active ingredient lasts for 17 days, it would be appropriate to treat every 10-14 days to ensure overlap.

Mycoinsecticides are safe to use, have a low half life, and most are federally exempt from testing. These colonies are fatal to insects, but do not affect mammals. Additionally, they don’t have a negative effect on the environment, as the active colonies are naturally found in soils. Mycoinsecticides work best in media that is mildly hydrated to dry for reproduction of spores and colonies.

Many biological predatory insect populations can coexist with mycoinsecticides in the market. They can also work as a preventative measure. Check with your distributor to determine which species works best as their cultivation environment can alter their effectiveness. Mycoinsecticides happen to not affect predatory insect populations as much, either. Spot treatment can be indiscriminate, so be careful applying after introducing predatory insect populations.

Treatment dosing depends on the environment, infestation level and grow cycle phase.

It is advised to have a secondary mode of action. It can be beneficial to diversify treatments with different active ingredients to ensure pests do not become resistant or immune. Sometimes, selecting ingredients that do not target specific pests may be a good idea, as it can offer additional benefits.

Do’s and Don’ts of IPM:


– Identify pest, lifecycle and infestation load.

– Understand the mode of action, and how it works against the target pest.

– Have a secondary treatment with a different mode of action to reduce resistance/immunity.

– Always wear PPE (personal protective equipment) when treating pests.

– Have safe re-entry intervals (REI). This is for commercial operators. Once a space has been treated, people should keep away from the treated environment unless proper PPE is worn. Different ingredients have different REI, some are 1 hour, some are 12 hours.

– Have a plan for both prevention and treatment.


– Over-do IPM. This can stress the plant and potentially lead to pest resistance.

– Treat plants without understanding what you are treating and why.

– Stop treatment until a minimum of 45 days has passed without pest sighting.

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