Implementing a sustainable greenhouse health maintenance program
We began our program by developing a website called “New England Greenhouse Update” where our greenhouse alerts are posted as messages using blog technology. The blog allows Extension educators with access to the web to log onto a website using a password and type information into a pre-formatted webpage. This allows information to be posted easily, making it timely for growers. The website also contains a section for photos to correspond to the messages. Photos are posted by the Tina Smith, coordinator of the site. This website was on-line by May 05. As part of our SARE grant we solicited 230 email addresses from growers throughout MA, CT and RI. When new messages were posted on the website a message with a direct link to the page was sent to the email addresses to alert growers of new postings. We solicited email addresses by publishing an article about the program in the following: Country Folks Magazine, Massachusetts Flower Growers Association newsletter, Massachusetts Extension newsletters for vegetable growers, fruit and berry growers and flower growers, Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources newsletter, Massachusetts Farm Bureau newsletter, New England Vegetable Growers Association newsletter, Rhode Island Farm Bureau newsletter, Connecticut Department of Agriculture newsletter, CT Crop Talk – Commercial Vegetable and Fruit Crops Newsletter, Plugged In – Newsletter of the CT Greenhouse Growers Association and through a fact sheet distributed at Extension programs in Connecticut and Massachusetts. We are in the process of having a postcard designed to further publicize the program and to continue to collect email addresses and fax numbers. We have just developed the fax alert part of the program for growers who do not have email addresses. The web messages will be faxed to growers.
In addition to developing the alert program, we conducted two educational programs, “Information Session – Whitefly Biological Control on Poinsettias” and “Greenhouse Tomato Conference”. The Biological Control Program was held on July 19, 2005 at Mahoney’s greenhouse, Woburn, MA and was attended by 15 growers. This program was held to recruit growers to use biological control for their fall poinsettia crop as part of our site visits, one-to-one program. As a result of this program, three growers used biological control during fall 2005 on poinsettias, two for the first time.
The Greenhouse Tomato Conference was held November 10, 2005 at the Tolland County Extension Center, CT. We exceeded our expectations with 108 attendees for the program. Attendees completed sixty-five evaluations. The evaluation provided insight about the attendees, how well the conference met their needs and input for future educational programs. Forty five percent of growers that attended use organic practices and 48% did not. Fifty two growers indicated that they learned information they intended to use including grafting (17), IPM and biocontrol (11), disease management (4), cultural care (8), energy savings (4) and the use of white plastic on the floor to increase light levels (5). Fifty-two growers also thought that they would benefit economically as a result of this program.
We did not receive funding in time to implement the spring 05 one-to-one site visits, however we are planning for spring 06 site visits. An article about the Spring 06 site visits for Massachusetts’s farmers was published in the New England Vegetable Growers Association newsletter to solicit farmer/grower participation. To date, five farmers have signed up to receive site visits. We will also solicit Massachusetts’s farmers through the Vegetable Grower newsletter, Fruit Growers newsletters and through our email list for farmers. Connecticut Growers will be solicited at spring grower meetings, and thorough Connecticut Newsletters (Crop Talk, Plugged in and Ct Dept of Ag Weekly Bulletin).
Of the 150 farmers in southern New England (MA, CT, RI) who will participate in on-farm, and other educational opportunities offered through this program, we project at least 30 will adopt one or more new sustainable greenhouse practices within three years of the program. These 30 farmers will achieve one or more of the following: Reduced plant losses from pest damage or cultural practices, reduced use of high-risk pesticides, effective use of low-risk pesticides and biological controls, and integration of proper cultural practices in their greenhouses. Project activities will support the NESARE outcome statement by having a positive influence on the environment and by helping farms to become successfully diversified and profitable. More farmers will adopt sustainable practices for greenhouse production as a result of this project. This will have a positive influence on the environment by reducing the use of high-risk pesticides. Since the beneficiaries will be farmers who grow other agricultural crops or may raise livestock, this project will also help the farmers to diversity their businesses by successfully growing greenhouse plants for sale, increasing farm incomes.
One-to-one site visits
We did not receive funding in time to implement the spring 05 (April/May) program involving one-to-one site visits. As a result, we plan to propose that we extend our project an additional year through spring 08. We did provide information through one to one visits during fall 05 in Massachusetts and Connecticut. In Massachusetts, three poinsettia growers used biological control on poinsettias with assistance. We helped these growers to scout their crop prior to using biological control, order and release wasps, and apply insect growth regulators. One grower used biological control for their 3rd time.
In Connecticut, three growers participated in the one- on- one training in the fall – two grew poinsettia crops and one was propagating cuttings for the spring. All three growers tried some aspect of biological control on a small scale – one grower used insect parasitic nematodes (Steinernema feltiae – ScanMask) against fungus gnat larvae on their cuttings. Potato slices were used to monitor for the larvae before and after treatment. They reported that they were amazed at how well the nematodes worked – and couldn’t find any fungus gnat larvae on the potato slices 4 days after treatment. One grower experimented with using beneficial predatory mites against two-spotted spider mites in a few stock plants and outdoor plants. Both growers plan on continuing natural enemy releases in the spring on a small scale. The other participating grower produced a poinsettia crop – with conventional insecticides and fungicides – but did experiment with using a biological fungicide – (Trichoderma – Root Shield) added to their potting mix for the first time. Crop quality remained high, as they were able to promptly respond to the pest management information generated from the scouting reports. This is important for a diversified farm – they were very busy with the apple fall harvest at that time of year.
Alert Program – 2005 spring
We solicited email addresses by publishing an article about the program in the following: Country Folks Magazine, Massachusetts Flower Growers Association newsletter, Massachusetts Extension newsletters for vegetable growers, fruit and berry growers and flower growers, Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources newsletter, Massachusetts Farm Bureau newsletter, Rhode Island Farm Bureau newsletter, Connecticut Department of Agriculture newsletter, CT Crop Talk – Commercial Vegetable and Fruit Crops Newsletter, Plugged In – Newsletter of the CT Greenhouse Growers Association and through a fact sheet distributed at Extension programs. We are in the process of having a postcard designed to further publicize the program and to continue to collect email addresses and fax numbers. We have 230 farmers signed up for the alert program, 150 more than we proposed at this time. We have received very positive feedback from farmers for the alert program and intend to conduct an on-line evaluation of the alert program.
Six growers provided their input and 123 farmers learned about sustainable greenhouse practices at two educational programs, Biological Control for Whitefly on Poinsettias (15 attendees) and Greenhouse Tomatoes (108 attendees). Sustainable greenhouse practices were emphasized at both programs. Both programs were publicized throughout Southern New England (MA, CT, RI) with assistance from growers.
The Biological Control Program was held at Mahoney’s Growing Division since Mahoney’s is using biological control for the third year. Two employees (head grower and IPM technician) spoke at the program. During fall 05, three growers used biological control on their poinsettia crops, two for the first time. This involved working closely with them on scouting, ordering and releasing beneficial wasps and using insect growth regulators. A new whitefly strain was identified (Q Strain) on two poinsettia crops in greenhouses in Connecticut and two in Massachusetts during November and December. Q Strain is resistant to many commonly used pesticides used to control whitefly.
Of the 108 attendees at the Greenhouse Tomato Program, 65 completed evaluations. Of those, 27 indicated that they learned a sustainable practice that they intended to use. The sustainable practices included, IPM and biocontrol (11), disease management (4), cultural care (8) and energy savings (4).
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
As a result of the poinsettia biological control program, 3 growers adopted biological control and insect growth regulators to manage whitefly. One grower was retail and two were wholesale growers. According to a survey of one of the participating growers conducted in 2000, at that time 11 pesticide applications were used to manage whiteflies on poinsettias including 3 applications of the organophosphate pesticide Orthene. This grower used just two applications of an insect growth regulator as part of our biological control project during fall 05, significantly reducing pesticide use. The poinsettias from the wholesale growers were sold to garden centers, farm stands and florists, which were then retailed to consumers. There has been inquiry from 2 additional poinsettia growers and we anticipate that more farmers will adopt biological control to manage whitefly on poinsettia as a result of this program.
Of the three participating growers in CT in the one on one training – all tried some aspect of biological control – one used biologically based fungicides in their potting mix, one used beneficial nematodes against fungus gnat larvae on their cuttings and one tried predatory mites against two spotted spider mites.
Twenty-seven growers that attended the Greenhouse Tomato Conference learned a sustainable practice that they intend to use. Practices include, IPM and biocontrol (11), disease management (4), cultural care (8) and energy savings (4).
Extension Plant Pathologist
University of Massachusetts
Amherst, MA 01003
Office Phone: 4135771827
Director of Pathology Lab for Greenhouse Crops
University of Massachusetts
Dept. of Plant, Soil and Insect Sciences
Amherst, MA 01003
Office Phone: 4135451045
Professor & Extension Specialist
University of Connecticut
Agricultural Biotechnology Laboratory
1390 Storrs Rd, U-4163
Storrs, CT 06269-4163
Office Phone: 8604860627