By Kara Lynn Dunn
Susan and Tom Palomaki are sold on using integrated pest management plus biological pest controls in their greenhouses. Within three years of transitioning to biological pest controls, their Lucas Greenhouses at Fairport, N.Y., has reduced pesticide use by 97.5%.
The couple started shifting to biological pest control of their annuals, perennials, vegetables and herbs in 2007 after joining a three-year educational project funded by New York Farm Viability Institute and conducted by the NYS IPM Program at Cornell University. "We've become very good at detecting problems early, and haven't had to spray much for issues in two years," says Susan. "I want to leave my kids a healthy planet, so we joined the IPM project."
In the first year, Ornamentals IPM Coordinator Elizabeth "Betsy" Lamb monitored pests and spray treatments at three greenhouses. During year two, they evaluated the combined use of spraying and beneficial insects. In year three, they evaluated concentrated use of beneficials – natural enemies that suppress pest populations.
Lucas Greenhouses employ Debbie Palumbo-Sanders, who scouts the entire business weekly. Through an IPM mentor-users network, Debbie met mentor Mark Yadon at Mischler's Greenhouse, Williamsville, N.Y. (featured in American Agriculturist's July 2008 issue). "Mark said 'Call,' so I did, even with questions I was embarrassed to ask," she says.
Now she mentors other greenhouse scouts, and educates Lucas Greenhouses' aspiring home gardeners, tour groups and planting parties. The eco-conscious business applies beneficials early in the season as a preventative.
The pay off?
Customer education is key, declares Palomaki. "We use posters, and retail staff to explain that the beneficials are sprinkled in the bran seen on the plants."
When Lucas Greenhouses' Little Sprouts Club comes for a tasting tour, "We want the children to be able to pick the berries and tomatoes," she adds.
Economically, the savings in pesticide cost washes with the expense of the beneficials. But "the human health rewards are worth any extra expense with IPM," she contends. Lucas Greenhouses received the NYS IPM Program's Excellence in IPM Award for 2012.
For more information, reach Lamb at 607 254-8800, or email her at email@example.com
. The IPM website is: www.nysipm.cornell.edu/
Catch more story details in December's American Agriculturist