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Biological control gains ground for specialty crop growers

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Three hundred attendees gathered in Monterey, California the first week of March for the 2022 Biocontrols USA Conference and Expo. Hosted by Meister Media worldwide and his American fruit grower, American vegetable growerand greenhouse grower brands and sponsored by Certis Biologicals and Valent, the the event was a welcome occasion for growers, crop advisors, educators and suppliers to reconnect and share solutions to their most pressing production challenges.

As two years have passed since the last Biocontrols USA event due to the pandemic, developments in Organic Products and technologies related to specialized cultures continued, making this year’s conference a particularly fertile environment for education and networking.

Sustainability and technology were a common thread that ran through both the conference program and the exhibition, where nearly 30 vendors shared updates on innovative new products. For growers and crop consultants, the benefits of more flexible and targeted materials for their crop protection and plant and soil health programs are much more widely accepted in 2022. And this trend aligns perfectly with the attention of consumers who express their expectations in terms of sustainability. produces food, flowers and other light products. Organic products are an obvious choice to serve both growers and their customers with these goals in mind.

The conference was headlined by an engaging keynote address from bio-industry veteran Dr. Pam Marrone, Founder and former CEO of Marrone Bio Innovations and current Director of Chestnut Bio Advisors. Marrone, who now works with startups agtech and agbio, detailed many of the advancements that have taken place in biologics in recent years. She said the developments there should be considered in coordination with many developments happening in other areas of agriculture. The next big steps, she said, will come when we start tying all the pieces together.

“Stop waiting for a silver bullet. We need systems integrators who can help create holistic systems with cultural tools, crop varieties, soil health practices, organic products and agricultural data from precision,” she said.

Organics are definitely the direction of the future: Marrone predicted that within 20 years, sales of organics will equal those of more traditional synthetics.

Small group trails provided a deeper dive for participating growers focused on fruit, vegetable, greenhouse and cannabis production. Sessions included presentations on proper tank-mixing procedures when using organics, discovery of a new predatory mite for greenhouse crop pests, and a new parasitoid for winged Drosophila control. spotted. There was also a fascinating discussion about the unfortunate increase in internet sales of unregistered and unregulated organic products in the cannabis market. Plant and soil health was also a focus, with presentations on biostimulants in greenhouse production and biochar in wine grape vineyards.

Participants also learned about developments in plant nutrient diagnostics using a new technique. Sap analysis provides a current snapshot of nutrient levels in the plant, giving growers time to react before deficiencies arise, said Jeff Glass, business development manager for Agro-K Southern. The technique also provides growers with information faster than the traditional industry standard of testing using tissue analysis, which provides more cumulative insight into what happened in the plant, Glass said.

Trevor Suslow, professor emeritus of cooperative research and extension at the University of California-Davis, shared a message about biostimulants and biofertilizers that can often fly under the radar: food safety considerations. Although organic products are considered very safe products for food production, without the emphasis on clean water sources and sanitation practices in irrigation and application equipment, growers who use of these products may unintentionally create conditions that may lead to the growth and spread of human pathogens in a crop. Growers should only get their water from tested sources, he says, “because once something like Salmonella gets into tanks and water lines, it’s really difficult and time-consuming to eliminate”.

The day before the conference, two buses full of growers took part in a field tour of Salinas Valley agriculture, visiting vegetable farms, vineyards and greenhouses and other facilities to see first-hand how producers in the region are implementing organic and sustainable practices. . The tour, sponsored by UPL, visited some of the region’s most innovative operations, including Laguna Mist Ranch, Growers Transplanting, Taylor Farms, Double L Vineyard and a Wilbur Ellis Research Center, before ending the day with a relaxing stop. to Morgan. Vineyard.

Cannabis growers also had an additional learning opportunity with a deep dive into a number of key insect pests plaguing their production with a three-hour workshop session led by Suzanne Wainwright-Evans, owner of Buglady Consulting. Growers of this still relatively new crop have limited control options for many of the pest problems they face. They also have to circumvent a lack of established research, which often leads to a proliferation of misinformation that makes it difficult to produce a profitable and consistently high-quality culture. Wainwright-Evans shared high-quality photos and video to help attendees identify specific pests and offered potential solutions and real-world management tips she’s seen with her clients. The workshop was sponsored by Beneficial Insectary.

Watch for upcoming announcements on details of the Biocontrols USA 2023 conference and expo, and other educational opportunities on biologics solutions from Meister Media and its brands.

Scroll through the photo gallery above to see some of the sights seen at the Biocontrols USA 2022 conference and expo.



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