The IPM Industry

Questions You Might Be Asked

  • What pest or pests are you dealing with or, better yet, are expecting to be dealing with (remember, you’re supposed to be proactive in this game)? If you provide an answer such as, say, whiteflies, be prepared to reveal more. Like what species of whitefly do you have? What life stage(s) are being noted? Are they green and have six legs? Are they white and sedentary, or do they take flight as you approach? Is there webbing, sticky honeydew or other noticeable signs of pest activity? Describe the damage you see: ragged bites out of leaves, speckling or stippling, interveinal chlorosis or yellowing, stripes or striated patterns, wormy and random patterns on leaves?
  • What populations or signs of said pests are present? None that you know of because your being preemptive and are wishing to set up some sort of prophylactic program? A small number in one corner? Or did the pests try to tackle you as you made a move for the telephone? Your distributor may be able to provide threshold numbers to determine the level and nature of your infestation, but it will almost always be up to you to define your level of infestation. Pest levels are a very subjective thing with many variables. The truest conclusions, I’ve discovered, can only be drawn by you. One person’s high infestation is another one’s light infestation. It’s very subjective — which lends an inexact twist to this whole business.
  • What crop or crops are you growing? And be careful, if you answer “tomatoes, flowers and stuff,” most distributors will suspect you’re actually growing marijuana (an industry inside joke). The same suspicion holds true if you claim you’re just a tiny home hydroponic gardener and order hundreds of dollars worth of product every week. Be as specific as the law allows — this will help your distributor help you as there may be certain protocols and obstacles specific to your crop.
  • Where are you growing said crops? In a greenhouse, interiorscape, farm, garden, even basement or closet? What’s the covering, if it’s a greenhouse? What environmental controls are used? Horizontal airflow fans, intake louvers and boxed, end-wall exhaust fans, ridge vents, roll-up sides? Is there screening?
  • What is the physical arrangement of the crop? Are there hanging baskets over plug trays? Are you growing eight-foot tomato plants? Do you have interiorscape palm trees with a lush understory planting of pothos or something? Are your plants direct-sown in the structure’s floor?
  • Is the lighting natural and is it supplemented with high-intensity discharge or metal-halide lighting and for what purpose-to control intensity or to increase day-length.
  • How do you irrigate? Ebb and flow benches, self-wicking containers watered from a reservoir below the roots, hydroponically cultured with a rockwool substrate? Watering can or hose?
  • Are you growing in soil or a soilless medium? What is the floor comprised of? Packed dirt, weed fabric, stone dust, crushed stone or finished concrete?
  • What is the size of the total space? What is the size of the utilized space? How tall and full are the plants? Are they low-growing plugs or twenty-five-foot trees?
  • What are your needs? Do you need help quickly if you, do indeed, have pests already? Are you looking to start preventive measures against a pest which kicked your butt last year? How understanding are your customers in respect to what you’re trying to do? Can you (and your customers) tolerate minor levels of pests being kept in check by biocontrol agents or does everything have to have an antiseptic look to it? (Plastic or silk plants are nice.) If you have one, what is your budget? What, exactly, are you looking to accomplish.
  • What is your level of expertise? Are you a neophyte or biocontrol/IPM veteran? How do you feel about doing your homework, or are you the type of person which really needs everything spelled out to you? Are you comfortable with your local resources such as your university’s cooperative extension office or agent or are you usually on your own in these matters?
  • Are you certified organic? What options are you willing to rely upon? Are you okay with spraying soft chemicals where they may be needed? Or are you a nozzle-head turning over a new leaf?
  • Do you scout regularly? Are you learning to scout? Do your pickers do your scouting for you and, if so, are they trained and reliable? Are sticky traps or other scouting aids being used?
  • If you have sprayed, what product did you use? Know the trade name and chemical name of any pesticides used (this includes all the –cides as mentioned on “The ‘I’ in IPM” page). When was the last application? If you just obtained some plants or cuttings from another grower, what did they do and when?

Be prepared with the answers and all will go more smoothly.

And the Benefit…

Knowing as much as you can will pay dividends. The results of the game will likely be more positive and you’ll surely be in a better position to make your money go further. Your distributor should ask these questions, or some combination thereof, and will probably do so with your best interests in mind. They should want very strongly for you to succeed in a financially reasonable and effective manner. They may ask you some of these questions even if you think you’ve got it down and have told them so-they’ll want to make sure you really do know because if you fail then they do too. These are questions which may be posed to you and doesn’t even include the myriad questions you’ll probably have for your chosen distributor. Your questions, though, are yours’ alone and I’ll offer no suggestions of what to ask in this web site. Your questions will be determined by your goals and concerns and, perhaps, any understanding which eludes you. As it is when classifying your level of infestation, the area of your mind which conjures up your concerns is yours’ alone and it is impossible for me to take you there. You’ll open that door to your distributor when the time comes. That part, like your pest level determination and specific needs and goals, is very subjective.

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