Insect IPM Protocols for Fresh Cut Peonies: Protecting a New Alaskan Export Crop

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional + Producer
Funds awarded in 2015: $48,872.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2018
Grant Recipient: University of Alaska Fairbanks
Region: Western
State: Alaska
Principal Investigator:
Gino Graziano
University of Alaska Fairbanks, Cooperative Extension Service

Annual Reports


  • Additional Plants: ornamentals


  • Education and Training: demonstration, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research
  • Pest Management: field monitoring/scouting, integrated pest management

    Proposal abstract:

    Alaska fresh cut peonies are the most important horticultural export in the state. Because Alaska’s peonies bloom in July - September when these field-grown fresh flowers do not exist worldwide, Alaska is the sole source for peonies during this time. Currently there are more than 100 members of the Alaska Peony Growers Association. Domestic and international sales of this fledgling industry in 2013 included 31,360 stems valued at well over $100,000. Based upon total roots planted, yield is predicted to be more than 1 million stems by 2017 (American Flower Farmer LLC 2014 Contract Report for Alaska Peony Growers Association). Worldwide, this industry in Alaska has now made the peony a year-round flower. Flowers are harvested in New Zealand and Australia (October – December), Chile and Argentina (January – February), Israel and other parts of the Middle East (February – March), China, Russia, Europe and the U.S. (April - June), and now Alaska (July - September). Large scale flower distributors prefer year-round flowers because advertising and marketing costs are lower. As a year round flower, peonies are poised to increase in productivity worldwide. The center for peony research in Alaska is the University of Alaska Fairbanks Georgeson Botanical Garden and queries about cultivation techniques have doubled from Ohio, Maryland, Missouri, Oregon and Kansas in the past five years. The Alaska industry is successful, in part, because of Alaska’s unique climate and northern latitude. Research at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) since 2001 has been focused on identifying management issues such as soils and planting to marketing and cold chain handling in an environment that is not replicated anywhere in the world and where no infrastructure for flower handling existed. Two insect pests have recently been observed on peony crops in Alaska that could limit productivity and foreign export potential of these field grown cut flowers: thrips (11 species) and lygus bugs (at least two species). Thrips are ubiquitous, especially on fields that are over five years old with white-flowered cultivars. They permanently scar the flower petals and at least one type, the western flower thrips, is on the prohibited export list for many countries, especially in the Far East. Lygus bugs puncture the flower buds and render them un-salable. Our experience with and search of world resources for information about these insects revealed a significant lack of knowledge on their life cycles, seasonal timing, and IPM protocols for their sustainable management. More information is known about lygus bugs on cotton and canola than any cut flower. Thrips are a common flower pest, but information about their effect on peonies is woefully lacking both locally and elsewhere. Questions have arisen about their lifecycles, such as: are nearby trees or weeds a source of these pests? is trap cropping an option? when do the most destructive feeding stages occur? are there suitable chemical and organic treatments available? Extension pest scouts and agents have no specific knowledge to share with growers to manage these pests.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Our objectives with this proposal are to:



      • establish IPM protocols for thrips and lygus bugs in peony fields in Alaska,


      • train Extension IPM agents and scouts in identification and management of these pests,


      • involve growers in on-farm research to develop a seasonal monitoring and management program,


      • engage growers in a grower-teaching-grower program,


      • develop an IPM protocol template and publish two IPM protocols, one for thrips and a second for lygus bugs in Alaska,


      • create YouTube videos with growers showing insect identification and associated damage, appropriate field monitoring techniques, and best methods of pest control.


    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.