201 - Nico Ardans - What the heck does IPM mean (in nurseries)?
[00:00:00] Andony Melathopoulos: Integrated pest management or I P M is frequently pitched as a way to control pests and diseases in a way that minimizes impact the pollinators. You can pick up any guide to managing pollinators in agricultural landscapes. And you'll see there in the first paragraph, the letters IPM now, IPM is off.
[00:00:19] Difficult to conceptualize because it is a conceptual model. And although many people use it on the ground, making that connection between concepts and practices is really difficult. And that's where this episode comes in. I drove down the road from the OSU campus to Peoria gardens, where I had the great opportunity to meet Nico our Dan's.
[00:00:38] He's had 15 years of experience working with integrated pest management in nursery production. And this is a great episode where we get right into the dirt. Literally. And see how integrated pest management works and how it's compatible and really can promote overall pollinator health. This episode, I would like to also mention, is part of a larger project with the Western IPM center.
[00:01:02] And there's going to be. More kind of case studies coming in future episodes. This is also the last episode before the new year I'm going on holidays, but I've got some great shows planned for you in the new year. So stay tuned, have a safe holiday. And I look forward to talking to you and hearing from you in 2020.
[00:02:10] All right. Welcome to
[00:02:11] Nico Ardans: pollination.
[00:02:12] Andony Melathopoulos: Here. It's great. Cause I got out of the office. I drove down the Peoria road from Oregon state university. We're still kind of Corvallis Albany, I
[00:02:19] Nico Ardans: suppose. Oh yeah. More Corvallis and Albany across the
[00:02:25] Andony Melathopoulos: bridge. I'm looking we're in this big, huge commercial greenhouse.
[00:02:28] It's really fancy that it's I guess,
[00:02:30] Nico Ardans: waiting for plants. It is, it's getting a new energy curtain right now which we actually were able to get a grant money for it's almost costing us. But it was in bad need of it and it helps us save a lot of money. I, I guess that's
[00:02:43] Andony Melathopoulos: part of the reason I'm here today.
[00:02:44] We want to talk about integrated pest management and nursery production and not just as, as a way to make production even better and use, potentially less pesticides are more targeted, but really relying on beneficial insects. By extension having these positive effects on pollinators.
[00:03:00] Nico Ardans: Oh yeah. We definitely try to minimize our use of resources and our maximize their potential. And this is an example of one of those, but IPM has has helped a lot. We've I was given carte blanche with our program when I inherited the IPM program to just order whatever I want. And it made me nervous, but it's saved us money in the long run.
[00:03:25] And while it hasn't reduced our number of sprays, it has reduced our volume of sprays. Oh, fantastic. By quite a bit
[00:03:32] Andony Melathopoulos: Let's start, I think we're right at the beginning, we're in an empty greenhouse, all the points that as have all been moved out, there's starting, or probably.
[00:03:40] Into starting the next crop of
[00:03:41] Nico Ardans: plants. Oh yeah. Yeah. We're, we've got a whole lot of perennial production starting up. And when we get to the holiday season, like a, it's going to be Christmas pretty soon. We try to move everything away from those days and we ended up piling it up on the weeks before and after.
[00:03:59] We're getting through some waves of sticking a lot of cuttings right now.
[00:04:03] Andony Melathopoulos: Remember we were talking right at the beginning of the first stage to that kind of goal of really starting to rely more on beneficial insects and reducing the reliance on pesticides has to do with starting, like getting everything clean to start with.
[00:04:18] Has that kind of integrated pest management strategy. Tell
[00:04:20] Nico Ardans: us a little bit about that. Oh, man. Starting clean is. I fight for that before moving on to anything else. I'm still fighting for it in our production our propagation area, our process just isn't set up for it yet. But it is a goal of mine this year to do that because I'd been told for years and point set is that you have to start clean.
[00:04:42] You have to. Dip them when they come in and it makes a world of difference. There's no way that we could get control when it being the mean w when the cuttings arrive they get dipped in a horticultural oil, and a lot of people talk about, you can mix in all kinds of chemicals into your depth.
[00:04:58] You can go nuts. But I did some research and found that it's less than a 1% difference. The horticultural oil, which is just a fine mineral oil. It does, most of the heavy lifting protects
[00:05:08] Andony Melathopoulos: the route from invasion because there's a little coating over it or something,
[00:05:12] Nico Ardans: oh, cuttings will come in with eggs or nymphs or anywhere.
[00:05:17] The insect is hidden with the exception of thrips, that'll lay their eggs in the tissue. The oil will smother them and and without any kind of, REI or residual, that's going to be a threat to people really. So we just got to wear some gloves and we dip them and. And that keeps them clean for a long time until they come whitefly will show up from the environment or something.
[00:05:39] Andony Melathopoulos: rather than have some, because you're in the space, I imagine if you can get smothered them with sort of the mineral oil, horticultural oil, then a lot of those problems that come, you start clean when you start. And then you don't have these flare up of problems during the production cycle.
[00:05:56] Nico Ardans: Buying a new car versus used. Yeah. You're going to inherit these problems that you aren't aware of. I don't know exactly. So if you start out clean, you've essentially got a brand new car. You can put some miles on it before you see any troubles and hopefully you catch those before they hit.
[00:06:15] But if you don't dip you've got spider, my eggs hiding underneath something somewhere and they're going come get. And that's going to be a spray and maybe you can catch it early and it's a small spray and that's still pretty good practice, but the best practice is to just eliminate it.
[00:06:30] And the oil's so cheap and it's just, you just need to submerge it. So you're talking like a second. It's definitely worth doing. We also talked about for
[00:06:38] Andony Melathopoulos: disease management as well. You talked about like hydrogen peroxide and just making sure that you D you, don't not caring after a production cycle.
[00:06:45] You're not carrying over pathogens from a previous year. Yeah.
[00:06:49] Nico Ardans: Yeah. And I actually ties back into the dipping thing too. Some people were nerves are nervous to do it because they're worried about propagating disease and we were too, but there's some great trials carried out. I can't remember the university, but.
[00:07:02] It's really difficult to propagate disease through the dip like that. It turns out. You should definitely go all in on that, but for the rest of our facility, whenever space opens up and a crop moves out, we try to come in right behind it to sterilize. And really we just use hydrogen peroxide and the surfactant to foam up a little bit.
[00:07:21] So you can see where it's active. And we've seen great results from that. I we've tried all kinds of different chemicals and. Tried to, go to war with biofilm and stuff and pipes, which is always ongoing. But we've definitely saw a huge drop and diseases just from doing that. Okay. So
[00:07:38] Andony Melathopoulos: I'm getting one key pillar of integrated pest management or IPM is starting clean once.
[00:07:43] Say, I guess it sounds like even with all your best efforts, something's going to emerge and pop up. How do you talked a little bit about. Figuring out when problems are scouting. And I, when we were walking through that line of greenhouses here, you're saying, I'm often just, looking around for beneficials that might be indicate there are aphid problems tells a little bit about how you scoped.
[00:08:04] Nico Ardans: Oh yeah. I'm always scouting. It's not something that's not something I can turn off anymore. I can spot cucumber beetles flying in the air, or you walk into a greenhouse and there's hover flies all over the roof. And yeah. The presence of beneficials is like that's an indicator that we're doing something right, because we're not killing them, which is the first way you shoot yourself in the foot.
[00:08:26] So our sprays aren't in. And it also shows me that there's presence of some insect population in there. So I'm really looking for the you're studying an ecosystem. This whole synthetic ecosystem that we've built for these ports. And when I look when I'm scouting in the crop, I'm looking for little insidious wasps hovering around swayed back and forth, looking for the CO2 hideous wasp I have.
[00:08:50] Oh, it's like the head of a pan is it's, they're so small and you can see these yeah. When you get the plant in your face, but. Yeah, we've got some established beneficials here that we can find in almost any plant now that you couldn't see before. It really helps, but like I said I'm always scouting look close.
[00:09:09] If you don't find something to look harder because there, there insects everywhere. It's I it's integrated pest management, not the complete elimination of insects. So there's always something to find. And if you. Are aware of it, then you're doing your job of monitoring it. And when it reaches a threshold, you can decide.
[00:09:29] So I want to control this beneficials. Did I miss that window? Do I need to treat it with something? What is compatible? I can use, it's not going to get rid of these beneficials. I imagine how nervous you get.
[00:09:39] Andony Melathopoulos: This is a lot of money sitting on some of these benches. This is a huge investment. And if you don't quite have confidence in the system, It must make you not sleep at night.
[00:09:53] Nico Ardans: Yeah. Yeah, you can get pretty nervous. We don't do a lot of mono crops here. The point set is a really point set is in our chrysanthemums are the two exceptions. But I do get nervous about it. There's a seasonality to everything though, where we know exactly what's going to happen before it happens and plan accordingly.
[00:10:12] Taking really really good detailed notes is important than my first two years of doing IPM. I just had a whole bunch of notebooks full every day when I'd go out at five. Like I said, always scouting. When I see something, I write it down with a date. Here's the crop. Here's what the pressure was.
[00:10:28] And here's what the test was. Then I use that same list to formulate a spray strategy and then return 10 days later to check up. Is the spray doing what I wanted. What's the mortality rate. And I take those notes too. And that was really helpful too, because there are some chemicals you don't want to chemical pest combos.
[00:10:47] You don't want to waste your time or effort or chemical on don't need to unnecessarily put that into the environment, especially if it's going to be hurting beneficials.
[00:10:54] Andony Melathopoulos: So I wanted to pick up I heard you had mentioned that earlier. And so the one thing is choosing a chemical. That's going to kill the pest, but the other one is this compatibility.
[00:11:02] Figuring out, because I think you've mentioned this before, where you use an insecticide, for example, on an insect test and then your beneficials are gone and the problem compounds. How on earth do you learn about compatibility of beneficials? Cause it's not on the pesticide
[00:11:18] Nico Ardans: label. I imagine. No, that would be really nice.
[00:11:20] Wouldn't it? It would save me some time. There are compatibility lists. I know the bio best website. We purchased a lot of our beneficials from them and they've recently like actually made a website and I think anybody can purchase from them now. And they've got some good information up there.
[00:11:35] There are others.
[00:11:36] Andony Melathopoulos: One of the companies that produces insects of bio-control insects. They've got a website that shows. This chemical will kill this one and this one, but not this one. And so you can,
[00:11:46] Nico Ardans: yeah, you can put in like what chemical you're planning on using and what beneficials you have out there.
[00:11:51] And it generates a matrix that shows you on a scale, what is most and least compatible. And that kind of helped me in the early days, but usually, there's going to be a Canary in the coal mine. There's some chemical that. You can't get away from boy. We sure do spray this a lot because it works so well.
[00:12:07] And maybe take a second look at those because I know we were doing a whole lot of to control. Thrips and mites like it's still great for mites and it's still, it is still great for thrips too, in certain combos with spinosa it's it still works pretty well. And thrips are notoriously hard to control, but it kills all your benefits.
[00:12:28] And wipes out a whole bunch of stuff. I made a serious effort to reduce those sprays. And I said, I'm only going to use ABIM actin for either, some doomsday thrips spray, which there are other better strategies for thrips. So I've moved away from that. But the only case that I use that on now is a broad mites that are notoriously tiny and very difficult to control.
[00:12:49] This is something you don't notice that you've got the damage in the crop, so it's worth it to do that on a few crops, but I really hate doing it because since I've stopped, we've had such a huge increase in beneficials. And some of our houses, I get calls in the busy season when we've got seasonal workers here.
[00:13:05] And they're like, you got to come in here. This house is full of bugs, like something's wrong. And one of our Quan's, it'll be just loaded with hover flies. They're they're larva are well hunt, aphids, and so it's great that they're around. Cause we never had them before. We're seeing a whole lot more volunteers volunteer beneficials come out of the environment.
[00:13:28] Like the huge Hoverfly popular. And a lot of Phineas wasps, a Phineas cold man, I come out from,
[00:13:34] Andony Melathopoulos: these are not the ones that you purchase from these are free. These are free. They're coming in there because the environment here you've really dialed in your pesticide regime to be soft on beneficial insects.
[00:13:47] They're starting to come in and you're getting that free pest
[00:13:50] Nico Ardans: control. Yeah, it's not, I won't say that they never cleaned the up a crop. I've seen it. But yeah, a big part of IPM is timing. And the times that they do clean it up, it's one that's in their favor. Videos, wasps do a great job of cleaning up aphids when it's still pretty cool.
[00:14:06] So spring and fall pansy crops, they could really do some good potentially clean up a few things here and there. But but again, that's a good thing to scout for. Cause then you can see Hey, I've, they're controlling maybe half of the population, so I only need a chemical. About 50%, catch up the rest.
[00:14:24] And that helps us make our decisions, but we get a lot of a lot of beneficial insects that I didn't see before when I started. I see even see lacewing now. Like we never saw any of those first couple of years. Amazing. Yeah.
[00:14:35] Andony Melathopoulos: Tell me a little bit about the beneficials that you bring in.
[00:14:38] Cause I know the greenhouse industry and the nursery industry has really been on the fourth. Of the adoption of bio-control insects and deploying them. Tell me a little bit about how that
[00:14:49] Nico Ardans: all works. The way that our production works is we get in cuttings for a lot of stuff. We do Germany seed and everything in order in liners too.
[00:14:58] But we get a lot of cuttings and all that goes in the, all of our seed production also goes through our propagation. It's our warmest house. It's our most bug friendly house, especially since we had a growing lights. However, the growing lights have really helped our root health. But everything starts in that house and it starts out small.
[00:15:15] So in a small area, you've got plug trays that are holding 288 plugs per tray. That's a lot of plants. When it's out in a finished crop, that's going to take up a whole lot of space in the greenhouse. Potentially you get more bang for your buck by applying and sex out there. A lot of those plants don't have the same problems as finished plants outside of the greenhouse have those.
[00:15:34] It being a more moist and warm environment. We're typically looking at controlling fungus nets and that's what we started with. Our control for fungus nets for fungus gnats. We use a strategy lay lapse or it's also called hypo aspects. It's a soil night. And just so listeners know when you're looking at a little tiny mites as a general rule and this, I guess this applies to most insects.
[00:15:56] If they're moving pretty slow, they're probably a pest, probably an herbivore. They're moving fast. They're on the hunt and they're a predator. That's a good rule of thumb when you're looking close in your plants and you see a tiny spider mite, that's a really moving across the plant or across the soil.
[00:16:12] That's a beneficial and cool. And so we started putting out those beneficial soil mites into our production area and. You can there are diagnostic techniques. You can put out like a cut up piece of potato out there to see when the larva are present. And then you could spray with nematodes to go after those larva, which is pretty cool.
[00:16:35] But timing has to be really what we settled on was just a regular schedule. That's so cheap just to get a couple of one, one liter shakers of these hypo Aspice mites and sprinkled them over our. Our trays up there. And then from there they get moved out into the greenhouse and hopefully carry those benefits with them.
[00:16:54] Longterm, the, those little mites they do a good job, but they only travel like 18 inches in their life. So they don't really get around that much. So I decided to introduce another more mobile predator. We introduced a Theda RO. Again, a little teeny, tiny little it's like a, almost like a tiny little black ear wig, but really small.
[00:17:14] Oh really? The common name is devil's coach me. You can look that up, but they're highly mobile that they are a type of beetle. They do have a wings and they can fly around. And before long I saw them out of the greenhouse and in the office in front of the computer screen, just flying around like.
[00:17:32] So they have
[00:17:32] Andony Melathopoulos: the advantage of being able to find little hotspots and
[00:17:35] Nico Ardans: focusing on them. Yeah. And I think that's I mentioned that because I think that's a key combo to having good efficacy to them to have something that is gonna really dig in and stick around, but also have something that's really mobile.
[00:17:47] That's going to go to where the past are. It makes sense. But what's blown me away. Is that without ever having applied anything out and some of these other greenhouse. I can pick up any pot and find it crawling with a Theda am, all life stages. And also soil mites, also the same hypoplastic, mice, everywhere,
[00:18:06] Andony Melathopoulos: in some ways in that kind of in the cuttings by establishing it there, they like throughout the production cycle, they stay present.
[00:18:14] Nico Ardans: Yeah. As long as we don't nuke them with an incompatible spray. Yeah. But that was the hope. And. Just this last year. I really after some time being distracted with other things, got my nose into the crops and I was just blown away by how just lousy with them. We are. And at the same time I realized, wow, we really didn't have to do too much for thrips this year and I'm not going to tell.
[00:18:39] Anything as a silver bullet for thrips, but it definitely helps to one, it helped a lot. Yeah. Like I said, we didn't have to really do a strip spray for anything. There's a couple crops where it's just like candy to them. Yeah. But for an in general it's really helped a lot.
[00:18:56] Andony Melathopoulos: Okay. So we've got these bio controls and that's a great example of one that and I love that dual strategy of.
[00:19:03] Both bio-control that might stick around and theirs is going to persist through the crop cycle, but also something that might be able to redeploy itself. I can just see the brigades coming in. It's
[00:19:13] Nico Ardans: We need to move there. There's another strategy that we employ. That's similar to that.
[00:19:18] Bio best produces and really all these beneficial insect insectory produce something similar. They make these they call them breeding sachets. It's a tiny little white packet of paper, gonna fold it over. It looks like a sweetener packet almost, but it's got a tiny hole in it and it's glued to a stick of some sort and you put them in the crop and inside this packet, this is so cool.
[00:19:38] And I love telling people about this inside that packet. There's some brand just like chaff in there and it's inoculated with a yeast. The yeast is consumed by a brand might that lives in. The brand mites are consumed by a KUKA. Maris might know the KUKA Maris mites are mobile enough because of, their predators.
[00:20:03] They find that little hole in the packet and the climb out and they get in your crop. They control a spider mites and thrips, and certain instars certain phases of their growth. So it's not constant pressure, but they're there. And if they're there at the right time, they'll help you get. And we had a huge problem of thrips damage on our pepper plants for the longest time.
[00:20:25] And I started putting these out and it really worked to a point until the plant gets too big. Then you're asking for more than 18 inches of travel distance out of that little night. But it really works. And one reason why it's so awesome is that every time you water the plant, as long as that sachet doesn't get completely water.
[00:20:44] You're enabling that yeast to keep growing the brand mites, keep reproducing, keep producing. I was thinking the
[00:20:50] Andony Melathopoulos: analogy was like slow release pheromones. It has it just has the persistence
[00:20:54] Nico Ardans: over time, but yeah, I'm very persistent. I did a trial putting one on a sticky card, just held up suspended by like a binder clip on a desk, not even in a greenhouse where I should've done the experiment, but it was on my desk.
[00:21:07] And for 10 weeks I watched him come out and I was still getting 20%. At 10 weeks at which point I was like, amazing. Okay. I'm done watching this car, so I don't know what the upper limit is, but if conditions are right, they can just keep going and going. So for me, that's like a tremendous bang for your buck and I put those into all of our mixed hanging baskets.
[00:21:30] Oh, I think I've gotten some of these. Yeah. I'm sure you have customers call in asking about them all the time. Like what the heck is? It looks like a little packet and I was wondering what they were. Oh, great. There. They're amazing. And that's fun to look at under scope and see, is this one still producing?
[00:21:46] Is it not? But they've totally changed things. We've got certain foliage, accent plants that go in our baskets that thrips love, and this really helps curb them. Okay. So
[00:21:55] Andony Melathopoulos: the. The other thing I wanted to ask you, there's two more things I want to ask you about. The first thing was having like plants that are attractive
[00:22:03] Nico Ardans: to pests.
[00:22:06] Andony Melathopoulos: yes. I thought I heard you talking about these, but what are,
[00:22:09] Nico Ardans: what are these I can talk about? For us having a bait crops, they're called we I don't know if we're going to deploy them this next year, but we have in the past because. Somebody somewhere around us is producing some kind of brassica crop that flea beetles really like.
[00:22:27] And at some point in the summer, there's a harvest that happens. And they all come over here. When the wind is right there, just get slammed up against the greenhouses and see a whole wall is just crawling with them sometimes. So we have early monitoring systems we've put up sticky tape to trap them.
[00:22:44] That works. All right. And, but the one thing that we noticed was that one year they came in and they got on our alyssum crop and just ate all the blooms out. It was just green twigs left. But then we planted some outside to use as a bait crop and we saw them show up early. They prefer that. So they got on at first and it gave us time to do some organic sprays.
[00:23:09] Cause it was specifically affecting our organic crops the most. And we were able to keep them off and save a lot more plants. So it's not, I wouldn't call it the proper use of a bait crop. But it definitely helped. Ideally we would have a hedgerow around the whole property. And in the future, I would like to get that going,
[00:23:28] Andony Melathopoulos: that you've talked about that.
[00:23:29] And just to mention that, one of the things as part of the grant, we've done some profiles of people using integrated pest manager. Can also help pollinators and I, on one of the video version of this, I heard you talk about heteros, tell us a little bit about, it's probably a longer-term plan for you, but what do you have in mind?
[00:23:46] Nico Ardans: Yeah I don't have much in mind yet at the moment actually, but I would like to have a hydro that goes all the way around the property except for the road here. So that way. Focus on beneficials out there looking at how many we've managed to coax out of our environment. If we can support them.
[00:24:04] I think we could get a lot more. But w we've seen pretty good effects from what we've coaxed in from the environment.
[00:24:10] Andony Melathopoulos: Final question I have for you guys grow a lot of wonderful pollinator plants. Do you have any favorites that you
[00:24:16] Nico Ardans: think people should know about? I really love Minarda and, everything loves it.
[00:24:19] It yeah, a lot of the bad bugs love it. I'm constantly, you can find anything on Minarda. So if you love insects or plants I like I can Aisha two, it attracts a lot of stuff. Yeah, that's like a double-edged sword. That question whatever the insects, like, how are you going to track both kinds?
[00:24:33] Good and bad. I
[00:24:35] Andony Melathopoulos: condition is a great plant. Both of those are great plants. And I have to say with always nice long bloom time as well. And it blooms at a time a year, in the state where a lot of things have faded and having some late summer blooms are always
[00:24:47] Nico Ardans: so wonderful.
[00:24:48] Yeah. Yeah. And in terms of like pollinators I tend to think about sweat bees. They pollinate a lot more than a honeybee does, but they reproduce a lot slower orchards really depend on on sweat bees. And they're very susceptible to pesticides and they're very tiny. They're very tiny, but the honeybees non-native It's from Europe.
[00:25:13] It's not a native pollinator but the sweat bees are. And some of them like specific colored pollen even. But I'm always thinking about them. If I see them out there in the crop, I know I'm helping move us in the right direct. Cause they're an underrated pollinator that do a lot of heavy lifting that just goes unnoticed except for two bug nerds.
[00:25:34] Andony Melathopoulos: and I imagine when it comes to small little bugs, that is your specialty.
[00:25:38] Nico Ardans: Yeah. I said never stop scouting they're everywhere.
[00:25:41] Andony Melathopoulos: Thanks so much for taking your time and we're really this is been a really helpful episode. I'm sure lots of people are. Curious about how pest management works in nurseries.
[00:25:49] And this is a really complicated and interesting
[00:25:52] Nico Ardans: system. Yeah. Thanks for that. And encourage everybody to get online and do some research because like I said, bio best finally has a website and I love being able to refer people
[00:26:02] Andony Melathopoulos: and we'll link it in the show notes. I'll put it in the show notes to anybody who's hearing this.
[00:26:05] You can go to the show
[00:26:06] Nico Ardans: notes and we'll have it there. I'll give you a couple of links to check out. There's a, actually a lot of resources available nowadays, so fantastic. Yeah. Thanks so much. Thank you for having me.
This week we start a new series looking into what integrated pest management (IPM), not as a conceptual framework, but on the ground, where pollinators are scooting around and living their lives. This week we head to a commercial nursery.
Nico Ardans has 15 years of experience in the nursery industry. He has worked virtually every job in the greenhouse and is the new Value Stream Leader at Peoria Gardens. He works to continually improve the Gardens processes while planning and supporting the production of premium annuals, mixed baskets, poinsettias, and mums. He is currently training his team of growers to take over stewardship of the Gardens IPM program.
Links to IPM Greenhouse Suppliers