Implementation of a Pilot County IPM Program for the Texas Nursery/Floral Industry

Submitted to:
Pesticide Environmental Stewardship Program

Project Coordinators:
Dr. Don C. Wilkerson, Professor
Department of of Horticultural Sciences
Texas A&M University
College Station, Texas

Mr. Ed Edmondson, President
Texas Association of Nurserymen
Austin, Texas

Project Cooperators:
Dr. Kevin M. Heinz, Asst. Professor
Department of Entomology
Texas A&M University
College Station, Texas

Dr. Michael Arnold, Assoc. Professor
Department of of Horticulture
Texas A&M University
College Station, Texas

Dr. R. Daniel Lineberger, Professor
Department of of Horticulture
Texas A&M University
College Station, Texas

Dr. Larry W. Barnes, Professor
Department of Plant Pathology
Texas A&M University
College Station, Texas

Dr. Charles R. Hall, Assoc. Professor
Department of Ag-Economics
Texas A&M University
College Station, Texas

Dr. Bastiaan M. Drees, Professor
Department of Entomology
Texas A&M University
College Station, Texas

Project Summary:
In 1993 the TAMU Nursery/Floral Management Team, working in cooperation with the Texas Association of Nurserymen (TAN), established a long-range environmental plan for the Texas Nursery/Floral Industry. The objective of this plan is to assist growers initiate a number of innovative cultural and structural practices which will result in the following changes by the year 2000:

Target 2000 Goals:
1) Reduce water consumption to 1990 levels
2) Reduce current fertilizer and pesticide usage by 50%.
3) Lower current energy consumption by 25%.
4) Reduce current solid wastes from agricultural plastics by 75%.
5) Develop applications for municipal wastes and composted materials for the production of floral and nursery crops.

To accomplish these goals and objectives TAMU and TAN are providing growers with the latest research based information on a variety of innovative, resource-efficient production practices. Although great progress has been made, many producers are still becoming familiar with those technologies upon which tomorrow's nursery/floral industry will be based.

The establishment of county-based, IPM programs will be extremely important if we are to reach our goal of a 50% reduction in pesticide usage by the year 2000. The TAMU Nursery/Floral Management Team, in cooperation with TAN, has initiated a 4 part plan to assist in the establishment of IPM programs for commercial nursery/floral producers. With 2 phases of the plan already completed, we hope to continue this critical project.

Project Rationale/Justification:
The production of nursery and floral crops is the fastest growing segment of agriculture in the United States. Nurseries and greenhouses generate the largest cash receipts of any crop commodity in eleven U.S. States. In terms of U.S. Agriculture as a whole, nursery/floral crops production is larger than wheat, cotton, or tobacco in agriculture farmgate receipts. From 1983 to 1988, income from nursery/floral crops increased by more than $2.4 billion in the United States.

While it defies the common perception of Texas agriculture, nursery/floral crops production is an important business to the overall state economy. Analogous to the national pattern, ornamental horticulture is the fastest growing segment of agriculture in Texas today, ranking fourth in state agricultural products behind cattle, cotton, and dairy products. The Texas nursery/floral industry added $719 million to the state's economy in 1994, 3 percent more than comparable data for 1993 and 5.7% of all Texas agricultural receipts for 1994. Texas is one of only four states with greenhouse and nursery grower receipts in excess of $500 million per anum.

While the production of nursery and floral crops has its economic rewards, it also carries a unique set of problems. Small amounts of arthropod feeding dramatically reduce the aesthetic quality of these crops and, thus, reduce their marketability. Not surprisingly, a great deal of pesticide use is commonly associated with the management of these pests. In 1993, Texas nursery crop growers applied approximately 1.5 lbs of active ingredient of insecticide/acre. By comparison, Texas cotton and corn growers applied approximately 0.3 lbs of insecticide/acre to their crops during 1992. Although these insecticide-based methods for maintaining pest-free and damage-free ornamental plants are virtually universal, they are also currently being challenged by an array of regulatory agencies. In addition, these methods are not consistent with the goal set forth by the TAEX Target 2000 plan (see pages 6-7)

The appeal of biological control tactics applied to nursery/floral crops can be demonstrated by the many reviews published on this topic and by the exponential growth of the augmentation biological control industry. The growth trend appears in the lists of Suppliers of Beneficial Organisms in North America over the 10 years the lists have been published. The 1985 list reported 45 parasitoids, predators and pathogens for sale by 53 companies. The 1994 edition listed 132 suppliers and over 120 different organisms.

In defiance of this growth in the supply side of the equation, examples of successful biological control of arthropod pests on ornamental crops are especially rare, partly because of the industry's inability to manage insecticides based upon sound biological principles, and partly due to the scarcity of applied research to show if, how, and when beneficials should be released. While there is no shortage of information regarding the identity and basic biology of these natural enemies, recommendations of introduction methods, release rates, and subsequent monitoring techniques are infrequent for most of the commercially available natural enemies. Although 21% of American nursery owners use biological controls, this pest control method remains a tantalizing prospect rather than part of the daily routine for most growers.

Before any biologically-intensive IPM program can be implemented, growers must first learn how to manage their use of insecticides. More so than in any other cropping system, growers of nursery and floricultural stock prophylactically apply insecticides on a calendar basis rather than when a pest approaches an economic threshold. These growers cite the extraordinary low damage thresholds associated with their aesthetic crops as justification of this misuse of insecticides. However, the successful IPM programs developed for nursery and floral crops in New York, California, and Northern Europe suggest otherwise.

Project Objectives:
The goal of this project is to continue towards the establishment of a "Pilot" County IPM Unit for Nursery/Floral Crops. This project will incorporate information and data collected and prepared from the TAEX IPM Mini Grant Program. The following are the principal objectives of the project:

1) Identify potential training materials for County IPM Coordinators and Scouts.

2) Pull these materials together and rework them into a body of information that can be used in developing training guides and reporting forms.

3) Develop a new training guide to support the Licensing and Certification program for greenhouse producers.

Project Workplan:
The "Pilot" County IPM Project for Nursery/Floral Crops will be implemented in 4 phases. The first was completed as a part of the 1996 TAEX IPM Minigrant Program. Phase 2 was completed with assistance from the 1997 TAEX IPM Minigrant Program. The proposed project will address phase 3 and initiate phase 4.

Phase I:
As the result of the 1996 TAEX IPM Mini Grant Program we were able to establish excellent base-line data towards supporting a "pilot" County IPM Unit for nursery/floral crop producers. In addition, we have worked towards establishing formal partnerships between the Texas Agricultural Extension Service (TAEX), Texas Pest Management Association (TPMA), Texas Association of Nurserymen (TAN), Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in preparation for this County IPM Project.

Phase II:
The TAEX Nursery/Floral Management Team has developed a variety of educational resource materials which can and will be used to support the training program for both scouts and the County IPM Program Coordinator. These materials include the new IPM Guide for Nursery/Floral Crops, handbooks, guides, slides, slide sets, fact sheets, articles, newsletters and several other extension educational publications. This body of information has been largely edited and re-worked to form the basic training program for the "pilot" project.

Phase III:
After these materials are pulled together, our TAEX multidiciplinary team will begin the process of formally developing Scouting Reports, Training Manuals, Slide Sets and other resource materials to train scouts and program coordinators. In addition, a new Control & Management Guide will be developed for producer cooperators. This Guide will plug directly into the reporting forms, enabling producers to easily understand the data collected from their operation and then providing a tool to select the most appropriate control tactic.

Phase IV:
The "pilot" project will focus primarily on bedding plant production. An appropriate county will be selected and a Program Coordinator and Scouts will be identified and trained. Producer Cooperators will be enlisted and the County Coordinator will schedule scouting activities. Growers will be surveyed/interviewed concerning their current pest management practices and including the volume and type of pesticides used. Following the "pilot" project, participating producers will again be surveyed/interviewed to determine the impact of the project.

Results of the pilot program will be used to develop joint TAN/TAEX educational programs for nursery/floral producers. Existing educational activities, such as state and regional seminars, TTVN video conferencing and educational sessions during the annual TAN-MISLARK trade show will be used.

Project Timetable:
March 1998
Quarterly Report
Preliminary planning meeting on pilot project and program requirements.

June 1998
Quarterly Report
Scouting reports prepared.

September 1998
Quarterly Report
Control Guide prepared, edited and produced.

December 1998
Final Report
Training Materials (slide sets, home page) prepared, edited and produced.

Description of Anticipated Environmental Impacts:
The use of IPM in the production of nursery and floral crops will facilitate an important change in the way producers use pesticides. By carefully monitoring/scouting crops and evaluating the information collected, growers will be in a better position to make bio-rational decisions on the appropriate control tactic. The use of IPM will also reduce and/or eliminate the prophylactic application of pesticides on these crops.

The proposed IPM project will also help reduce the development of pesticide resistance among insects and diseases, as well as aid in extending the effectiveness of many pesticides currently in use. The development of biologically intensive alternatives will also provide growers with an opportunity to evaluate and select non-chemical control tactics for nursery and floral crops.

Nursery and greenhouse facilities use relatively large volumes of water to produce a high quality product. As a result, there is a significant potential for the contamination of surface and groundwater resources from irrigation runoff. The proposed IPM project will help growers reduce the total volume of pesticides used, and subsequently decrease the potential for surface and groundwater contamination.

Materials Currently Available:
The following is a brief summary of some of the major components of the IPM project for nursery/floral crops that have already been completed or are currently underway.

IPM Research Report:
This publication outlines a broad range of research information and data collected on nursery and floral crops. Most of this information was gathered as part of a 1996 TAEX Minigrant project. This valuable data has assisted growers in developing IPM strategies.

IPM Guide for Nursery/Floral Producers:
This new publication is designed to provide growers with a variety of IPM strategies for insect and diseases. The guide also includes cultural information on such topics as nutrition, water quality, growing media, etc.

Pesticide Applicators Study Guide for Nursery and Floral Producers:
This new publication outlines the safe and efficient use of pesticides on nursery and floral crops. Also, information on pesticide handling and storage. This guide has been specifically prepared to address IPM issues and will be used for licensing and certification.

Insect and Disease Photo Library:
More than 50 images of common insects and diseases on nursery/floral crops have been selected and scanned. These images will be used to support a variety of training materials (i.e. slide sets, bulletins and publications).

Texas Greenhouse Bulletin:
This newsletter is published 3 times/year and is distributed to over 2000 producers throughout Texas and the Southwest. The TGB will be an extremely important tool in distributing information regarding the IPM project.

Aggie Horticulture on the World Wide Web:
With over 100 full-text documents on the production of nursery and floral crops, Aggie Horticulture is an extremely important information resource. The insect and disease information is IPM specific and also links to the TAMU-Entomology and TAMU-Plant Pathology home pages.

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