Digitally integrating your pest management approach
By Bob Wiggins
Be it timely applications or scouting data, greenhouse software could help make IPM programs run more smoothly and efficiently.
By Bob Wiggins
Pest management is a critical part of any commercial greenhouse. Despite its importance, tracking its delivery and progress can still be a challenge.
When growers work to implement an integrated pest management (IPM) program, the effectiveness of the applications can often be compromised due to a lack of communication between growers and IPM staff. Common examples of this include times when the grow team practises plant management strategies such as trimming, de-leafing, and thinning right after the IPM team has applied beneficial insects, or when one team applies chemical treatments right after the other has applied beneficial bugs. This lack of communication leads to economic loss as the IPM treatments are rendered ineffective.
Although most growers would agree that regular plant inspection and scouting is a best practice, it is sometimes reduced to a side project due to time constraints, or the need to react to emergencies. However, investing time in this practice rewards the operation with better data, which can be used to reduce expensive control product applications, keep everyone on the same page, and—most importantly—produce better, more consistent harvest results.
Many growers use spreadsheets to track their pest management program, which is certainly better than nothing. Unfortunately, spreadsheet record keeping creates a cycle where the scout identifies an issue and tells the grower. The grower then has to remember the issue until they are back with their spreadsheet to input the information. Important data can be recorded incorrectly or lost in this process.
Maintaining spreadsheets is not the best use of a grower’s time and also makes the grower a silo of information. When the person with the spreadsheet retires or moves on to another employer, the data often leaves with them. Spreadsheets generally do not make information broadly available to a team.
There are modern software products that can help organize and track pest management programs. But despite its proven effectiveness, there can sometimes be resistance. Personnel may chafe at having to learn a new program, or the need to regularly record data. Resistance to change is a natural human instinct, but if an organization wants the benefits of making data-driven decisions, data needs to be maintained in an easy and intuitive way.
Modern software allows scouts to record counts and observations directly into the software on tablets or phones. Notes and pictures of what was observed can be input directly into the database.
In addition to pest scouting, software can also improve the process of applying controls, including the tracking of individual applications, affected plants, and application methods and rates. It can then create a record that can be viewed as a graph to judge the cost-effectiveness of the pest management program, and serve as a permanent record to comply with government regulations. All parties involved are privy to treatment plan schedules, helping to coordinate plant maintenance.
As greenhouse IPM programs become increasingly sophisticated, keeping and making use of physical binders of information or spreadsheets grows increasingly difficult. Greenhouse software is one way to help streamline IPM processes, assisting the grower in making smarter decisions, reducing costs and ultimately leading to a better crop.
Bob Wiggins is CEO of RedBud SoftWare, Inc., www.redbudsaas.com.