Biological Pest Management in Kentucky High Tunnel / Greenhouse Tomato Production Systems

Kentucky producers of tomatoes in high tunnel or greenhouse production systems manage several key arthropod pests to maximize their yields and profits.  An environmentally and economically sound management system for these pests is based on the following components:

  1. Sanitation and cultural controls in and around structures, which includes screening and weed control.
  2. Biweekly Monitoring – visual inspection of plants and sticky cards. This includes keeping written records.
  3. Recognize developing pest problems early, before they are at critical levels. Properly identify the pest or pests; with aphids and whiteflies this includes identifying them to species. Your county Extension office can help with this.
  4. Release beneficial species (natural enemies and pollinators) – monitor effects – consult with extension specialists and suppliers. Beneficial species do not act like insecticides and require management.
  5. Anticipate future problems based on previous crop history.

Insecticides are available for suppression of these pests, if unforeseen problems arise, but many have limited compatibility with natural enemies of pests and pollinators.

There are several species of biological control organisms, which are commercially available and highly effective against arthropod pests infesting Kentucky tomato production systems.  (See new ENTFACT 327 Biological Control of Arthropod Pests in High Tunnels and Greenhouses:  http://entomology.ca.uky.edu/entfact/biological-control-arthropod-pests-high-tunnels-and-greenhouses).

Tomato growers who plan to use biological control to suppress arthropod pests in high tunnels and greenhouse production systems need to keep the following considerations in mind:

  • Biological control organisms are available for the common recurring pests (aphids, whiteflies, thrips, and spider mites) in your production system.
  • Avoid use of broad-spectrum insecticides that might interfere with the activities of pollinators and beneficial insects and mites.
  • Evaluate the compatibility of biological control with other pest and disease management tactics. Information is available at https://www.iobc-wprs.org/expert_groups/01_wg_beneficial_organisms.html
  • Biological control is best used when a pest first appears or densities are low.
  • Correct identification of pest species is required as the biocontrol organisms often only control specific pests. The Extension service can help you identify these pests.
  • Biological control organisms will not completely eliminate the pest species, but keep populations very low when successful.

John Obrycki, Entomology Professor, and Ric Bessin, Extension Entomologist

Posted in Greenhouses/High Tunnels, Vegetables