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Greenhouse good bugs lead to IPM award

Contact: Betsy Lamb 607 254 8800;

by Mary Woodsen

Greenhouse good bugs lead to IPM award

Williamsville, NY: One day when Dave Mischler was 21 and working in his father's business, Mischler's Florist, his three-year-old brother was playing in the greenhouse and got into an open gallon of pesticide. "He got it all over his new shoes," Mischler remembers. "He never had any ill effects, but it was a scary thing. I never liked pesticides very much."

It opened Mischler's eyes to the possibility that pesticides might not be the best way to manage pests in a greenhouse run by a family with eight kids, located in a residential neighborhood. He started on a path of reducing their use, motivated even more as he and his wife Nancy took over the business and raised their own five children among the clay pots. Also, he had opened his greenhouses to the public as a retail garden center and was concerned about the health of his customers and workers.

"Getting away from pesticides as much as possible certainly looked like the way to go," says Mischler. "When they started talking beneficials I perked my ears up." Mischler attended workshops hosted by the New York State Integrated Pest Management (NYS IPM) Program to learn more and in 1989 began using beneficial insects to control pests.

These thumbnails link to hi-res photos. Please credit the NYS IPM Program. Contact Mary Woodsen for more information.

Lately Mischler and head grower Mark Yadon have been spreading the word to other commercial growers, hosting grower tours and speaking at workshops and meetings. It's this dedication that won Mischler and Yadon their "IPM in Excellence Award" from the NYS IPM Program.

"Our IPM program is something we take pride in," says Yadon. "We're trying to be green and use anything we can to not only reduce pesticides but also increase the value of the crop."

Mischler's Florist, which Dave's father Frank started in 1944 in a suburb of Buffalo, grows 95 percent of everything they sell, including all the bedding plants for their retail garden center, hanging baskets, mixed containers, holiday plants, and cut flowers for their florist shop.

Mischler's has a wide-ranging IPM program and they're proficient at using beneficial insects. They control thrips and spider mites with predatory mites, use eggplants to monitor the whitefly population in their poinsettias, use barley plants to host aphid parasites, and monitor for other pests "constantly," says Yadon, who will take over the business after Mischler retires this month.

They also discovered that they had developed a population of hunter flies in the greenhouse. Once these helpful flies took hold, says Yadon, "our fungus gnat and shorefly populations just dropped to really nothing, and we haven't had to treat for those now for about three years." Yadon considers the hunter flies a resource and protects them by using only sprays targeted to certain pests instead of broad-spectrum sprays that could kill them.

"It's a pleasure to look at a sticky card at Mischler's and find more natural enemies than pests on the cards," says Carol Glenister, president of IPM Laboratories in Locke, NY. "Recently, Mark discovered that he had overwintered whitefly parasites on hibiscus and lantana plants and that these plants seemed to supply parasites for whitefly control throughout the spring growing season to his entire greenhouse."

Brian Eshenaur, NYS IPM specialist in ornamental crops, notes the sophisticated IPM system Dave and Mark developed. "They're on the leading edge of biological control techniques," he says.

As Yadon takes over the business, he's planning to continue the good work Mischler began. "I use IPM because I want to save the environment for me, my family, and my workers," says Yadon. "It fits into my style of growing."

Mishcler and Yadon will receive the award on July 22, 2008, at the Cornell Floriculture Field Day in Ithaca, NY.