Monday, July 18, 2016

Science Keeping Up With The Times

Biopesticides (also called bioscience products) are pesticides that are found in nature. Do you remember studying in middle school how the black walnut tree exudes its own preemergent herbicide (juglone that causes an allelopathic effect) to keep other plant life from growing underneath it and competing with it?  This is definitely the way of the future! 

The most common biopesticides that you might have heard of in the past would be pheromone traps for catching flies or Japanese beetles.  Pheromones are a natural chemical attractants (usually sexual) that animals as well as insects produce. You put these attractants on a glue board to attract flies and Japanese beetles and they get stuck. Bt or Bacillus thuringiensis is a bacteria that controls many different worms, caterpillars, mosquito larvae or Lepidoptera insects.  Diatomaceous earth is a natural contact insecticide derived from microscopic plankton or algae with silica skeletons.  Roaches, ants, fleas, and snails walk across this product and it causes abrasions to their exoskeleton and they dry out and die.

Many of the major chemical manufacturers are spending more money developing these types of products (finally) because they are easier to get approved through the EPA, saving them money in the long run. One of our main manufacturers recently introduced an insecticide that is approved by the National Organic Program; however, they didn’t market it as an organic product because some people in the industry feel that organic products do not perform as well as the chemical counter parts.

Most bioscience products are very specific to certain pests; however, now many products are being introduced with a much broader label.  In some cases, it is required that you use them more frequently because the product breaks down in the environment very quickly.  Diatomaceous earth on the other hand lasts a very long time. It is important that you know the life cycle of the insect or pest that you are after because some bioscience products only attack the pests at a certain stage in their life cycle. 

Some bioscience products that we had had a lot of success with include; Harpin protein, Neem Oil, Spinosad, beneficial nematodes, various oils and insecticidal soaps.  Other bioscience products called bionutritional products or biostimulants that we have seen great success with include; humic acid (Possum Hume), seaweed products (liquefied seaweed and sea kelp products), and amino acid products.  SeaHume (a combination or seaweed and humic acid) is a proven performer in the Lowcountry.

To give you an example of a bioscience product, Harpin protein (found in Mighty Plant) is a bacteria’s (fire blight) waste product (poop) that is sprayed on the plant.  The plant thinks it is being attacked by a bacteria so it goes into its defensive mode.  The plant’s cuticle thickens preventing attack from certain insects, fungi and bacteria.  This cuticle thickening also conserves water.  The plant also flowers profusely in an effort to create seeds to perpetuate its species (war time babies) and also grows a larger root system.  Since most people grow plants for flowers, this is an obvious benefit.  A plant that has been treated with Harpin protein is more drought tolerant, has better flowers, has better foliage, can resist certain fungus and insect attacks, and has a stronger root system than an untreated plant. 

Always read, understand and follow product label. The product label is a Federal Law.