Integrated Pest Management for Interiorscape Applications

On sun ship earth the arrival of spring means many things; all of which, one way or another, relate to axial precession.

In our case, the Northern Latitudes are now aligned, like a giant set of leaves, toward the sun. In accordance with an ancient adiabatic process many denizens will emerge from various stages of rest. I was reminded of this early today during a walk along the river. There I was, trudging along the warm, sun lit waters edge, a vast array of migratory birds serenading me, above me on an uppermost branch of a big-ole shagbark- an eagle is perched watching its mate drift effortlessly upward in a never ending thermal. I then ventured into a south facing inlet and out of the gently building SW wind –  and was swarmed by the largest cloud of midges I have ever seen.

The anecdote above demonstrates the way most people encounter a pest; they walk right into it, oblivious to the vast array of indicative and/or causative factors that construct the event. In this instance retreat was an option and provided a solution. This is seldom an option in commerce. As professionals in the allied horticulture and agriculture sector as a whole, it is incumbent upon us to implement best practices and incorporate evidence based decision making processes into our management activities. Compliance with regulatory measures plays a major role. Practitioners of the Interiorscape arts can accomplish this considerable task, reach goal so to speak, by actively following the principals of Integrated Pest Management, IPM. The ultimate goal of IPM is the lawful, careful use of chemical and biological pest control methods only when necessary and only after careful consideration and research of information gathered and recorded throughout the production, supply and maintenance chain. If a chemical or biological treatment solution is necessary, who exactly can implement or perform the application?

The Pesticide regulatory landscape of Canada and the US can appear quite complex but each is essentially two tiered; consisting of Federal and regional regulatory apparatus. There are similarities but certainly no consolidation. My perspective stems from Canadian Federal and Ontario and British Columbia provincial regulations. Certification and licencing fall under regional oversight and IPM is mandated. Confusion some times arises with regard to who can use what registered and classified product for what purpose. There are presently 12 classes of pesticide compiled from 4 categories of product registered with the Federal Pesticide Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA): Manufacturing, Restricted, Commercial, and Domestic. Classes 1-4 are restricted to licenced and insured professionals, 5- 6 are registered for domestic use, 7-9 deal with an aggressive pesticide reduction strategy aimed at eliminating cosmetic uses of specified compounds, 10 is for serious weeds like poison ivy, hog weed, wild parsnip etc., 11 is for bio pesticides, and 12 is a recently compiled list of neonicotinoids under federal, provincial and international multi stage review. Class 5-6 are widely available to anyone and may contain active ingredients present in other classes based on different formulations but are generally restricted to lower concentrations of single active ingredients.  In the case of class 11 products, some formulations are available for domestic use. A similar exemption exists in regard to class 12.

As we can see, the appropriate use of pesticides can be a difficult decision tree to climb.  The regulations offer a concise interpretation of the classification system when it comes to professional interiorscape activities related to pesticides – fee for service activity requires a licence to operate. A prerequisite for an operator licence is very specific insurance compliance. This requirement extends to class 5 and 6 products. A variety of exemptions to licencing requirements exist but overall, unless you are a specified type of owner of a specified type of property or employed solely by the exempted owner of the specified property you need an operator licence to apply pesticides of any class. An exterminator licence is required to obtain an operator licence. Trainees and technicians, once passing a course, are able to apply specified products (class 3-7) under varying degrees of documented supervision by a licenced exterminator with an operator licence and all required permits or one that is employed by a company with an operator licence and the required permit. In all cases, the licenced exterminator is required to maintain records and ensure regulatory compliance and senior managers are accountable for deficiencies.

In the era of the smart phone, record keeping has never been so easy. Drop box, one drive, Google drive and other apps offer the ability to instantly organize, store, retrieve, work with, and share multiple types of data on multiple accounts, across multiple platforms, and integrate this data with inventory control, procurement and IPM in an almost seamless manner. The process is as simple as creating a spreadsheet recording as much information as possible, such as: temp, RH, plant types, location, groupings, soil pH, watering info., presence/absence and counts of identified diseases and insects on sticky traps or on the plant and larvae stage in soil, details of any treatment employed or suggested and outcomes, grower source, time since installed etc. This simple procedure can be integrated and scaled and virtually eliminates the guess work so often evident in reactions to perceived treatment thresholds.

The intrinsic value of this type of easily retrievable information should be self evident. Determining a treatment specific to the life cycle stage of the identified pest and selecting a pesticide from the optimum mode of action group capable of facilitating a desirable outcome at that location becomes a more predictable and replicable task. This information will also protect you in the event of any civil or criminal litigation or prosecution under the pesticide act and other related legislation. Remember, a pesticide label is a legal contract and applying a pesticide binds you to the terms of use.

Photograph: Neil Palmer/AP

Chris is a plant biologist and forester who has dedicated over two decades to plant ecology research in addition to acquiring almost 20 years of experience in the garden center and florist sector. He graduated from Trent University with an Honours degree in plant biology and from Sir Sandford Flemming College with a diploma in Forestry. As an ecologist, Chris has been involved in many projects, large and small, from government directed natural resource management audits and climate change research with carbon sequestration in permafrost peatlands to natural vegetation restoration following disturbance. As an garden center and florist business owner in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, he has born witness to the tremendous change that has occurred in the horticulture industry over the past twenty years.

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