Banker Plants: Pros and Cons, Tips on Creating Your Own System, and More


Banker plants placed at the end of benches, using the same watering and fertilizer system as the crop. Photo: Ashley Paling

Using biological controls to control pests as part of an IPM strategy is a popular choice among greenhouse growers. However, using them sometimes leaves you at the mercy of waiting for weekly deliveries to control your greenhouse pests.

Enter the banker plant system, a relatively inexpensive option that provides you with a constant supply of beneficial biological controls. A recent article on covers the ins and outs of how to use a banker plant system properly, and what you need to consider if you are going to set up a banker plant program in your greenhouse.

The article starts with an overview of banker plants, which leads into a step-by-step guide to creating your own system, and the pros and cons of banker plant systems.

Perhaps most important, the author (Ashley Paling, a research technician at the Horticulture & Environmental Sciences Innovation Centre (HESIC) and part-time instructor at Niagara College) offers top tips for running a successful Aphidius colemani banker plant system in your greenhouse:

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  • “This system is preventative, not reactionary! You need to be able to get ahead of the pest pressure for it to work effectively. The best timing is to start your banker plant system six weeks before your earliest expected crop that regularly gets aphids will be planted in your greenhouse.”
  • “Be consistent with your watering! There is nothing more disappointing than seeing your pest populations rise because you had some wilted banker plants over the weekend.”
  • “Remember that your banker plants need fertilizer too! Just as it is important to remember to water your banker plants, so too is it crucial to ensure they are receiving fertilizer when they need it. Hooking up your banker plants to a drip line that gets regularly fertigated is a good way to avoid forgetting them.”
  • “Make sure your cages or hair nets are secured and free of small holes. Having a fully secured environment to keep your A. colemani from parasitizing the R. padi population before it has a chance to multiply is extremely important.”
  • “The type of monocot crop you use for your banker plant matters. Oats have been determined to be the least effective, providing you with lower R. padi populations and therefore less parasitoids. Wheat and barley provide the R. padi with the most nutrients, which lead to healthier A. colemani populations.”
  • “Do not remove the banker plants until they start to die, to get the most out of your banker plant program. They can last eight to 10 weeks.”

Read the entire article here.

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