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The William & Mary greenhouse has started a new program to limit the use of chemicals by relying on predatory insects for pest control. It's the biological equivalent of fighting fire with fire — and so far it's working.
The method is called biocontrol and according to Josh Puzey, assistant professor of biology at William & Mary, the university is one of the first in the region to implement the tactic as a way to reduce pesticide use and increase the overall biodiversity within the greenhouse.
Biocontrol - While - Concern - Effects - Pesticides
"While biocontrol has been around for a while, with a rising concern of off-target effects of pesticides, there is an increasing need for organic methods to control pests," Puzey said.
The idea first came about after Patty White Jackson, greenhouse manager and Puzey's collaborator on the project, decided to reach out to faculty to see if they wanted try the method as a kind of ad-hoc experiment. Puzey had already done some reading on biocontrol and was eager to give it a shot.
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"I'd been after professors for years saying we should do this and finally last year the biology department started supporting us," Jackson said. "It seemed like an obvious thing to try. You don't want to use poisons when you're doing research with insects, and you don't want to use poisons when you have students working here."
Jackson and Puzey take their marching orders from Griffin Greenhouse Supplies, a 72-year-old Massachusetts-based horticultural supplier. The company provides the pests and consultation, while the biology department and a Green Fee grant provide the funding.
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"I get tech support from Griffin. They tell me what I need and what to do and I do it," Jackson said. "And no, it's not the William & Mary Griffin, but it is a funny coincidence."
The predatory insects arrive by the thousands, in red-capped tubes...
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