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Biological Pest Control in the Garden

Neil Helyer explains how biological control in the garden works and how it could benefit you.

Did you know that we offer a variety of organic pest controls to fight all kinds of pests in the garden? 

These pest controls are used by professional growers to protect their crops on a large scale, the same pest controls can be used by the home gardener too, but how do they work?
Neil Helyer has been an Integrated Pest Management Specialist at Fargro Ltd for 25 years. Neil holds a BASIS certificate and to ensure that his technical information base is kept up-to-date he is a Member of the BASIS Professional Register (MBPR Hort). Neil also runs various training courses for students and nursery staff. Neil has written several refereed scientific papers, numerous magazine articles and book chapters; as well as being lead author of the Colour Handbook of Biological Control in Plant Protection.
 In this article, he explains how biological control in the garden works and how it could benefit you.


The majority of plants may suffer with pest or disease outbreaks at some time or other.  At this time of year, aphids are particularly troublesome outdoors while whitefly and spider mites may be found in greenhouses.  All these, and most other pests, can be managed biologically as part of an IPM (Integrated pest management) strategy. IPM is regarded as a more sustainable method of pest control and is the main strategy used by commercial growers in the UK and most countries around the world.

What is Integrated Pest Management and how does it work?

IPM brings together all aspects of pest and disease control; initially using cultural techniques such as general hygiene, ground cover materials for weed control and monitoring with sticky traps to predict pest occurrence.  
Biological control becomes the next line of defence either by introducing beneficial organisms or as a consequence of reduced pesticide applications, allowing natural pest control organisms to establish.  Pesticide use, particularly with selective products should be used only when necessary, as a guide it is best to use a pesticide when pests can be clearly seen on a plant or when leaf or yield damage is evident.  By using a short persistent or selective pesticide to reduce an existing pest population, natural enemies can be introduced, usually within a few days, to maintain the control.  
Biological control always works best when pest numbers and plant damage are low. SB Plant Invigoratoris a contact acting, physical control spray for aphids, spider mites, adult whitefly etc.  It has no harvest interval and can be used on all edible and ornamental plants, protected (greenhouse) and outdoors and can be used as a targeted spray with minimal effect on biological control organisms. 

Biological control is the use of natural enemies of pest organisms and has several advantages over conventional crop spraying.  Beneficial organisms locate the host by their own mobility, often following soon after the pest arrived. Obviously with natural pest control, the pest organisms must be present on plants before the beneficials arrive as they are the food for the parasitoids and predators.  The trick is allowing sufficient pest numbers to encourage the beneficials without causing undue damage to the plants; this is where sprays such as SB Plant Invigorator are very useful.


Aphids

Aphids, also known as greenfly and blackfly are common from April onwards, but ladybird activity doesn’t really occur until mid to late May, naturally occurring parasitoid wasps that kill individual aphids are usually active from early May. 
Lacewingadults start to lay their eggs from mid-May, their larvae devour mast soft bodied prey and can found in gardens, hedges and greenhouses.  All these naturally occurring beneficial insects can be introduced to your garden and greenhouse, where they can establish a breeding population to maintain pest control throughout the summer and well into autumn. 


Most aphids have more than one main host plant, the very common and troublesome Black-Bean aphid (Aphis fabae) obviously attacks beans but can also be found in greenhouses on cucumber and many ornamentals.  This particular species over-winters on Euonymus, Philadelphus and Viburnum; it is well worth introducing lacewing larvae to these plants in early to mid-April to reduce the number attacking your beans. Lacewing larvae are voracious feeders of most soft bodied prey and can be used in greenhouses and gardens.


Other biocontrols for aphids include specific parasitoid wasps that attack individual aphids, laying an egg inside each aphid that develops to a larva, eventually killing the host and emerging as small fly that finds further aphids. A predatory midge called Aphidoletes aphidimyza lays its eggs close to aphid colonies, a minute orange coloured larva hatches and starts to feed on the aphids.  These orange larvae eventually grow to 3 mm in length before dropping to the ground where they form a cocoon in which they pupate, new adults emerge after 2 to 3 weeks and the cycle continues.  This predator can establish in gardens to reappear each year and provide excellent, natural biocontrol.


Spider Mites 

Pests like spider mites are encouraged by hot weather and may be found at this time of year in greenhouses and from mid-summer outdoors, particularly on cucumber, raspberries and strawberries, runner beans and many ornamentals.  The glasshouse spider mite over-winters away from plants, frequently within cracks and crevasses of the greenhouse structure and inside hollow bamboo canes.  


They feed by sucking the sap from individual plant cells leaving a fine speckled appearance that can coalesce to leave bleached leaves that eventually die and turn crispy brown.  This pest is best controlled by the orange / red predatory mitePhytoseiulus persimilis which actively seeks its prey, piercing and sucking all stages of spider mites.  They can be used from late April to early October, the late season introductions are particularly useful as the predator will continue feeding on mites as they start to hide away for winter.




Organic Pest Control Range

If you would like to learn more about the biological pest control range that we can offer, visit our range to find one that best fits your needs.

Our entire range is affordable and effective, giving your garden and greenhouse the best chance to flourish without any pesky pests getting in the way.


VIEW THE RANGE
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