The “standing army” approach (BioBee)

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By Sandra Langer
BioBee Marcom Manager

Biologically Integrated Pest Management (IPM), when practised proficiently in modern farming, is truly a method of ecosystem stewardship that combines cultural, behavioural, chemical, biological and genetic methods to keep the populations of undesirable species in balance and at tolerable levels.

One of the challenges of biologically-based IPM is that natural enemies can only establish once pests are present. This headstart allows pests to reproduce, causing plant damage, increasing the time and expense required for pest control and sometimes soliciting chemical correction as an interim solution. Chemical residues may then delay natural enemy release and increase the required application rate of natural enemies. In severe cases, early pest establishment can vector viruses even before natural predators can be released, devastating crops soon after transplant.

Most IPM programmes are reactive. BioBee proposes proactive biologically-based Integrated Pest Management programmes. The idea of providing supplementary nutrition to natural enemies, allowing them to establish and multiply in the absence of prey, is not new. However, commercial supplementary nutrition products have only started appearing in recent years. Some of the available products lose viability quickly. High humidity on the leaf surface and exposure to sunlight, reduces the durability of feed applied directly to foliage.

Many of the application methods create much waste and leave residue on the crops, often requiring multiple, labour-intensive applications. Several of the products on the market target specific groups of predators and some even feed and invigorate the pests. New, cleaner and easier application methods with which you can apply both the natural enemy together with their own feed, are becoming favourites.

All these new products and application methods can truly make a difference in the IPM programme if coupled with knowledge, correct strategies and serious monitoring of the crops.

“In an age of higher customer awareness and new stringent residue restriction legislations, BioBee’s combo and feed products are a major contribution to the “standing army” approach; reducing the need for spraying harmful chemicals and promoting a more reliable establishment of natural enemies, while lowering the labour costs for growers,” explains Milo Arieli, BioBee South Africa’s CEO. “The standing army approach is a winning strategy.”

So, what are the weapons available for your IPM arsenal?

Slow-release sachets

Fast-release and slow-release sachets are available in the market today. The first is for reactive treatment of hot spots while the latter is for preventive treatments. Sachets are much more than just another easier, cleaner, time-saving application method.

Contained within a small paper sachet, carefully designed to create a perfect environment for predatory mites, effectively sustained by the feed within the bag, the predatory mites emerge over a number of days.

The market has been offering this application method for many predatory mites such as Neoseiulus californicus, Neoseiulus cucumeris, Amblyseius swirskii and Amblyseius andersoni.

Yet not all predatory mites are created equal. Phytoseiulus persimilis, the ultimate spider mite predator which is prey-specific, could not be used in slow-release sachets because it would entail releasing the pest into the crops as well.

BioBee upended this tradition last year with the announcement of a new mass-rearing method for P. persimilis. This technology yielded the BioPersi+ (an improved version of P. persimilis) effectively enabling the novel slow-release sachet application method for P. persimilis.

Fast-release sachets of P. persimilis have been around for some time now, yet because the P. persimilis was starved, the sachets had to be perforated individually by the user when applied. BioPersi+ sachets (classic & speed) contain alternative feed; thus, the sachets are pre-perforated and ready to use, making the application faster, easier and more convenient to growers.

BioPersi+ Speed Sachet with a slow release of more than 150 mites/sachet for up to 5 days is recommended for hotspot treatments. The BioPersi+ Classic Sachet has a slow release of more than 500 mites/sachet for up to 12 days and is recommended for preventive use.

Martin Booyens, marketing and field service manager at BioBee South Africa explains: “Sachets can be applied on all crops and are an especially useful tool for crops such as medical cannabis where physical contact between the product carrier/formulation and any part of the plant must be avoided.”

“Another great feature of the use of sachets is their visibility in the field. Each predatory mite has an assigned colour in BioBee sachets, so you can easily see where and what was placed in the field. BioCalifornicus is purple, BioPersi+ is red and BioSwirski is yellow,” adds Gideon Nieman, field service officer at BioBee South Africa.

Slow-release entomopathogenic nematodes

Entomopathogenic nematodes have been used in IPM programmes for some years now, mainly as a reactive measure. With the new Nemaplus® Depot P, preventive protection against fungus gnats is possible.

Nemaplus® Depot P are capsules of entomopathogenic nematodes in a water-oil emulsion enclosed in an alginate shell. Once the capsules come into contact with soil or substrate, the alginate shell becomes permeable within a week and the beneficial nematodes emerge.

Over a period of several weeks, new nematodes actively search for larvae. After locating pest larvae, nematodes invade through natural body openings and inject bacteria into the insect. Bacteria develop within the insect and it dies of septicemia after 2 to 3 days. Nematodes reproduce inside the dead larva. Thousands of new nematodes leave the dead larva and search for further prey.

Combo products

Combo products containing both the natural enemy and feed are quickly becoming favourites in IPM programmes. They do have a great advantage: the natural enemy and the feed are applied simultaneously in one sprinkle, in the same area. This improved and simplified field application saves time and manpower and improves the establishment of natural enemies even in very young plants.

Combo products can be used in early dispersal (before the first wave of blossoms appears), traditional dispersal (during the first wave of blossoms) and as a corrective dispersal (when there is a shortage of open blossoms or difficulties in the establishment of natural enemies for a variety of reasons). The quality, viability and compatibility of the feed are of the utmost importance in these products.

BioSwirski Combo and BioOrius Combo are two products that contain premium quality Artemia cysts which undergo special treatment at BioBee. BioCali Combo contains the predatory mite Neoseiulus californicus boosted with specially treated prey mite Carpoglyphus lactis.

The balance between a combination of natural enemies and compatible feed that does not support pest populations, is crucial.

Boost your colonies with insect feed

We already mentioned the combo products that can assist growers with the early establishment of natural enemies, but what if you just need to add some feed to help the already present natural enemies or if you would like to attract the right kind of attention from nearby natural enemies? There are solutions.

BioClFeed (Carpoglyphus lactis) is a highly nutritious supplementary feed for generalist predatory mites such as Amblyseius swirskii, Amblyseius andersoni, Neoseiulus californicus, Neoseiulus cucumeris, Transeius montdorensis and Amblydomalus limonicus.

BioArtFeed is a premium quality feed based on premium quality decapsulated Artemia cysts, with extraordinary long viability. Its post application is unique as it provides suitable feed for all the key predator groups: predatory mites, predatory bugs and mirid bugs.

BioArtLine is the innovative delivery system for BioArtFeed: a 100-metre tape bearing fine lines of decapsulated Artemia cysts, glued on the edges of both sides of the tape. The tape distributes the feed evenly with very low waste rates and functions as a multi-purpose platform for natural enemies: a feeding station which attracts, feeds and facilitates mobility as well as offers shelter and oviposition sites without coming into direct contact with the crops.

Beneficial friendly plant strategies

Keeping the growing area clean of weeds is important to avoid attracting pests. Some plants attract natural enemies and provide them with nectar, pollen and shelter through-out the growing season. Asters, alyssum, small sunflowers, yarrow, cosmos, stonecrops, lobelia, basil, thyme, lavender, parsley and dilland borage are just some of the plants that can provide an edge to your IPM programme.

Prevention, prevention, prevention

Sealing areas and installing pest barriers, removing trash and overgrown vegetation where pests might hide, are just some of the preventive actions you can take to protect your crops.

Being aware of the current natural enemies and pest population in your crops is crucial. Monitor, observe, identify and keep track of changes occurring in your crops to best strategise. Catching a problem as it arises is easier to overcome. IPM programme decisions are based on the monitoring results, so keeping track is critical.

The standing army approach allows growers to start clean and stay clean of pests in green-houses, nurseries and open fields, by promoting the early establishment of beneficials before the pests arrive, with quality feed to sustain them and a supportive environment. It is an eco-friendly, economically sound approach that reduces the use of pesticides and decreases chemical residue.

The BioBee team is committed to the application of natural enemies as preventively as possible, to provide the knowledge, experience and supporting products to implement the standing army approach and give growers a running start.

Be pro-active, prevention is the key!

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Laeveld Agrochem’s agents (franchisees) are qualified agronomists accredited by CropLife South Africa (formerly AVCASA).

In each region, agents receive support from experienced Business Managers, enabling detailed recommendations for both corrective and proactive measures on the farm.

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