Produce Grower: What are the most common insect and mite problems fruiting vegetable growers face?
JB: Whether growing heirlooms, cherry, tomatoes-on-vine or peppers, fruiting vegetable growers routinely battle spider mites and whiteflies, with aphids singing backup chorus. Thrips can be a problem in some ranges, and even caterpillars make an appearance from time to time. In wetter ranges, fungus gnats may be a nuisance pest — we’re still working out how much of a vector we think these might be for plant diseases.
PG: What’s new in products for managing these pests?
JB: You’ll see more targeted chemistries coming to the market — manufacturers hear that demand from the market and growers loud and clear. Those are materials that target pest groups while preserving beneficials and non-targets. BASF introduced Sultan® miticide, a spider mite-specific product that is so targeted you can use it with predatory mites, and it only has activity on the pests (Tetranychids). Then we brought Ventigra® insecticide to fruiting vegetables and cucurbits, and this active ingredient targets piercing and sucking pests like aphids and whiteflies. You’ll also see more biological insecticides and miticides, like Velifer® fungal contact insecticide and miticide, the BASF proprietary Beauveria that has activity on aphids, whiteflies and thrips, and unlike other Beauveria strains, spider mites and broad mites as well.
PG: Experienced growers know about Integrated Pest Management — what’s new in IPM?
JB: At BASF, we’ve been talking about some new ways to work with IPM: that is making programs by choosing products across functional groups. This is an easy way to make sure you have all the heavy lifters in your programs, and it automatically rotates your applications across multiple modes of action. Growers include products from each of the following functional groups: 1) oils and soaps, 2) insect or mite growth regulators, 3) biological insecticides, 4) targeted conventionals, and 5) broad spectrum conventionals. Some growers only use the last group as a rescue. This approach helps ensure you don’t skip important resistance management tools, like growth regulators and horticultural oils (don’t be scared: modern oils, like Ultra-Pure® Oil horticultural insecticide, miticide and fungicide from BASF, are much more predictable than they used to be!).
PG: How can growers stay ahead of pest populations during the hottest times of the year?
JB: Since the crop is perennial in greenhouse fruiting vegetable production, running solid programs makes a difference in pest pressure. If you’re also running beneficials alongside these programs, it will help them be successful. In the heat of summer, biologicals can struggle to keep up with pests — your intervals may tighten up, and rescue applications might be needed. That’s not a failure in pest management, it’s population dynamics at work.
PG: Does BASF have resources and other tools for growers?
JB: We do; we have a portfolio of fungicides and specialty greenhouse products, guides, and rotation resources, and our technical and sales teams are at the ready to help. Also, many of our labels are available in Spanish and we make webinars and technical resources available in Spanish and English. Get in touch with us, we’d love to work with you.