The greenhouse industry in Pennsylvania is a growing one, with the state ranked sixth in the U.S. in greenhouse production
with over $175 million per year in the production of vegetables, flowers and herbs.
“Those numbers should continue
to increase because greenhouses allow growers to extend the growing season to serve urban and suburban markets with fresh,
locally produced food and plants”, says Cathy Thomas, Pennsylvania IPM coordinator and biocontrol specialist.
“In addition, many farmers are shifting to greenhouse production as a minor crop to replace or supplement income lost
from low market prices in other crops. Greenhouse agriculture is also a popular choice among Amish and Mennonite growers in
the state because a greenhouse operation doesn't require much space and farmland is becoming harder to obtain.”
with any type of crop, agricultural pests can be limiting factor for yield and quality and can limit a farmer’s profit.
Pests can include insects, fungal disease and weeds. In the past, pesticides were the mainstay of pest control, but recently
consumers are demanding crops grown with fewer pesticides. Integrated pest management ( IPM ) allows the production of a healthy
and profitable crop while reducing, and sometimes eliminating, pesticide use.
The Pennsylvania IPM Program ( PA IPM
) has supported the greenhouse industry in Pennsylvania for over 15 years by providing research-based recommendations to greenhouse
growers. A greenhouse IPM program follows a biointensive strategy that relies upon sanitation, mechanical barriers, biocontrol
and scouting. Targeted pesticides are used only when necessary.
In a new project, Thomas will be showing vegetable
greenhouse growers how a successful IPM/biocontrol system can replace traditional pesticides. Through use of biologically
compatible pesticides combined with biological controls, growers can slow pesticide resistance in target pests, create a safer
working environment for the family and farm workers, and maintain quality crops while increasing profitability when marketed
as "pesticide free."
According to Thomas, growers will meet with an IPM/biocontrol specialist on a weekly basis starting
at the beginning of the growing season. They’ll be taught pest-scouting techniques and identification, lifecycles of
pests and biocontrols, and proper record keeping to monitor pest populations and determine pest thresholds. “The program
will allow growers to identify pest problems specific to their location and develop a practical plan of control that fits
into the production constraints of their own farm.”
In addition to its support of greenhouse projects, the PA
IPM program has helped to develop many resources for greenhouse growers, including a pest ‘problem solver’ web
site ( http://paipm.cas.psu.edu/ProblemSolvers/grnhseProblSolv.htm
) and the manual, “Greenhouse IPM with an Emphasis on Biocontrol”. For more information, contact Thomas at (
717 ) 772-5204 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.