Using Biopesticides and Biological Control Agents Together

Raymond Cloyd“If I’m using natural enemies in my pest control program can I also use biopesticides?” That’s one of the more common questions we hear from growers about biocontrols, and we’ve enlisted Kansas State University’s Dr. Raymond A. Cloyd to help provide the answer. Dr. Cloyd’s presentation, “Biological Control and Biopesticides: An Integrated Plant Protection Strategy That’s Time Has Come!” will kick off the Biocontrols USA West 2017 Conference & Expo, March 2-3 in Reno, NV. While combining these two useful biological tools makes sense, he says the process is not always as simple as you might think.

Q: How common is this practice of using beneficial insects and biopesticides together?

Cloyd: I think it’s a relatively new type of plant protection strategy that many growers are not really familiar with yet. They’re learning on the job and that’s what a lot of our research has focused on. We have been working on programs to help growers understand what they can expect.

For instance, we have been doing evaluations on entomopathogenic fungi — we get a lot of questions about whether these products are going to be harmful to biological control agents or natural enemies. I think there’s a misconception that these are completely safe together — it’s not true in all cases. Some of these entomopathogenic fungi may be either directly or indirectly harmful to certain natural enemies. There’s a steep learning curve on using these together. But it is still a viable strategy.

Q: What’s the most common mistake you see when growers are trying to incorporate biocontrol agents and biopesticides together?

Cloyd: I think the most common mistake we still see is the timing of application. Biological control is proactive, not reactive. You have to keep pest populations in check for these solutions to work most effectively. You have to have a really good scouting program in place, whether you’re using an integrated biocontrols program or a traditional chemical program.

Q: What’s the most surprising thing you think growers will take away from your presentation at the Biocontrols Conference this year?

Cloyd: Costs. For example, if you’re trying to integrate entomopathogenic fungi into your program for management or suppression of western flower thrips populations, then application costs may be less expensive than when using conventional insecticides. When you compare standard insecticide rotations, you can get the same level of suppression, but at a lower cost.

Growers typically look at direct costs when making pest management decisions, and the costs for scouting and labor tend to be similar whether you’re looking at a biocontrol solution or a conventional insecticide one. But when you consider the indirect costs of using biological control agents and biopesticides together in an integrated program, you may experience less resistance issues, a safer work environment, and less potential for phytotoxicity. There’s not always an obvious direct dollar value, however these are real cost savings you should consider.

Register now earn more about biopesticides, biocontrol agents, and how they can work together in your crops more effectively and profitably at the Biocontrols USA West 2017 Conference & Expo.