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Scouting in the greenhouse

Scouting is essential for growers to prevent disease outbreaks.

Scouting is essential for growers to prevent disease outbreaks.
HN RC 542
Scouting in the greenhouse 88

Preventing pest and disease outbreaks will save time and money. Although the best growers use every opportunity they have in the greenhouse to informally inspect things and take the “pulse” of the greenhouse environment and crops, a more formal and focused approach to scouting is essential. This article will focus on the fundamentals to any successful greenhouse scouting program.

Scouting should begin as early as possible in a growing cycle. For those bringing plant material such as seedling plugs and rooted cutting liners, plant material should be inspected immediately upon receipt; no plant should enter the greenhouse without this check. A small quarantine area, isolated from the main production area, is useful to keep plant material that appears questionable or affected.

In the main production area, effective scouting needs to occur throughout the entire area, and regularly. However, there are some strategies to making scouting effective and manageable. First, the main growing area should be divided into smaller subunits. Dividing the greenhouse into subunits corresponding to different crops is often a useful approach.

Plant scouting 101

Within each subunit, individual plants need to be inspected. Both random and targeted approaches to selecting plants for sampling are useful. A targeted approach should be taken for problematic areas or hot spots, those areas where pest and/or disease infestations are common. By purposefully focusing on well-known problem areas, you will be positioned to catch anything early. For the rest of the sampling area, randomly select plants from throughout each subunit.

Regular scouting is essential to proactive pest and disease management. So, how often should you scout? Well, the more often, the better.

Once plants have been selected to inspect, take a shoot-to-root approach. Thoroughly inspect the leaves, including both the leaf surface and underside. Look at the leaf axils, as this can be a common location for pests. Leaves from a variety of ages, from old to new, should be selected. Once shoots have been inspected, plants should be carefully removed from containers to observe root systems. The color of new and old roots is a simple way to assess relative root health, while specific symptoms such as dark- or off-colored roots and sluffing of older roots can be easy to see.

When scouting plants and trying to identify problematic symptoms of abiotic and biotic problems, it is important to know what “normal” looks like for the plants being scouted. What may appear like a symptom of some problem may be the actual appearance of the plant.

For example, think of different variegation patterns on foliage, or consider the kaleidoscope of colors and their patterns on coleus. It certainly isn’t hard for an untrained eye to interpret a desirable ornamental characteristic as a virus symptom- or vice-versa! Perhaps velamin, the white outer-layer of phalaenopsis orchid roots, could be mistaken for a fungal disease?


Scouting tools

In addition to inspecting plants, sticky cards are essential in making scouting for flying insects more successful. There are a few tips that will help make the most of sticky cards. First, make sure you are using enough sticky cards for target pests. For most pests, placing 4 to 5 cards per acre of growing area is sufficient. However, if whiteflies are a particular problem, up to 1 sticky card per 1,000 square feet of growing should be used. Sticky cards are available in both yellow and blue. While yellow is the all-around color choice for general purpose trapping, blue cards are more effective in attracting thrips.

There are a few more tools to make your scouting more effective and efficient. One of the most important tools for any scout is a hand lens or loupe. Utilizing this tool allows a grower to take a close-up look at any symptoms, signs and/or pests on the spot. A clipboard is useful not only for taking notes and keeping records, but for holding white paper to tap plants over for observing pests like thrips.

Use a simple cloth tool belt to hold spare sticky cards, plastic bags for samples, plastic gloves for handling potentially infectious materials, and other miscellaneous items. Back in the headhouse or other workspace, a dissecting microscope is useful for identifying those insects that are harder to identify, as well as to observe bacterial streaming or fungal structures. Keeping some enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay or ELISA kits on-hand can be useful to test symptomatic plant tissue.

Regular scouting is essential to proactive pest and disease management. So, how often should you scout? Well, the more often, the better. Determine what scouting frequency is sustainable and then maintain it with rigor Intervening early can minimize the negative effects of pests and diseases, and scouting provides you this opportunity. Additionally, by taking the information you learn from scouting throughout the year and using diligent record keeping, you will begin to put together larger trends in pests and diseases over time.



Shade cloths: a short overview

Consumers want vegetables, herbs, and blooms at every time of the year, not just in season. Luckily, growers can grow the entire year, thanks to, among other factors, shade cloths. Shade cloths function like sunscreen, preventing the plants from being overexposed to the sun’s rays, especially during the summer months.

The use of shade cloths originated from Australia, where the summer season can be harsh. The cloths are draped over the greenhouse to cool down the surface and the plants. Depending on specific plant types, they come in different densities or thicknesses to control the amount of light to penetrate; you use thicker shade cloths for sensitive plants like spinach and lettuce, thinner ones can provide enough shade for tomatoes and peppers.

Shade cloths are made of loosely woven aluminum or polyester in varying densities. The various thicknesses provide degrees of shade between 5% and 95%. In addition, they allow water to penetrate so that irrigation systems, sprinklers, and rainwater can continue to hydrate your plants.

You can find two types of shade cloths in the market: woven and knitted. Aside from the manufacturing process, one of the most important properties to consider when choosing shade cloths is the color. The shade cloth color can make a big difference depending on the type of plant that needs protection. In addition, the color affects the growth of plants.

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Argentina’s largest hydroponic greenhouse

Argentina’s largest hydroponic greenhouse is located in Lima, in the province of Buenos Aires. The ADBlick Agro company has 1.44 hectares with 270,000 strawberry plants of the Albion, Monterrey, and San Andreas varieties, which will allow the company to offer a permanent supply that will amount to 300 tons per year.

To carry out this project, which required an investment of 1.5 million dollars, the company worked with New Growing System (NGS), a Spanish company dedicated exclusively to the development of new technologies for crop production. In addition, an advisory committee made up of INTA professionals has contributed its knowledge since the beginning of the project to fine-tune the substrate in which the strawberries grow.

The greenhouse has a meteorological station that allows automating the zenith opening that protects the greenhouse from possible storms or strong winds, and is a source of information for decision making: being able to instantaneously measure the temperature, humidity, radiation, wind direction, and speed can provide environmental traceability to plants.

An irrigation computer provides another important flow of information, such as the data related to pH, electrical conductivity, and nutrient consumption in each of the irrigations. All this information is saved and can be analyzed in real-time or later. This allows improving the crop’s management day by day and making decisions based on the results previously obtained under similar conditions.

According to ADBlick, this production system reduces the use of herbicides by up to 100%, the use of fungicides by 70%, the use of insecticides by 50%, and the use of fertilizers by 45%.

“This launch responds to a growing demand for fresher products. Due to their proximity to urban centers, hydroponic greenhouses can deliver higher quality merchandise with zero waste. The products may cost more, but their taste, health, and cleanliness are much better,” stated Federico Mouso, the head of ADBlick Hidroponia.

The company recently began marketing strawberries under the Zempre brand in numerous stores in the area and in some of the most important supermarket chains.

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