Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Chilli Thrips and Pink Hibiscus Mealybugs Invade Houston

Two insect pest species that made news last year because of their first appearance in Texas are causing serious problems for homeowners and landscapers in the Houston area. While these pests are currently in the landscape, they have the potential to move into production greenhouses and nurseries.

Populations of the pink hibiscus mealybug were recently confirmed in Brazoria, Galveston and Harris counties, triggering TV-news coverage and subsequent reports from homeowners in a number of areas in Houston. The Texas Department of Agriculture, after confirming the pink hibiscus mealybug infestations, have initiated surveys of surrounding areas and will be making releases of natural enemies. Biological control has provided excellent control in Florida and will likely be the long term solution in Texas. Using reduced risks insecticides such as insecticidal soaps and oils, in combination with good sanitation practices should help homeowners minimize plant losses and facilitate establishment of released natural enemies.

A large population of chilli thrips was also detected recently in Houston. A survey was conducted of the entire Medical Center complex and chilli thrips or signs of chilli thrips were found at every rose bed. Chilli thrips were also found on other roses outside the Medical Center. The actual distribution of the infestation is currently unknown.

It is important to remember that chilli thrips attack more than just roses. They can attack a wide range of landscape plants, horticulture crops and row crops.

For the most up to date information on chilli thrips in Texas visit http://chillithrips.tamu.edu/. I will be updating the site this weekend. New information should be posted by August 5th.

Monday, July 14, 2008

NTNGA Memorial Greenhouse Ribbon Cutting

On July 10th, eighty growers and AgriLife faculty attend the ribbon cutting for the NTNGA Memorial Greenhouse. I would like to thank the Northeast Texas Nursery Growers Association for their support and hard work to make the greenhouse a reality.

This project was made possible through support from the following sponsors (as of 7/14/08):

Financial Contributions by:
  • Bruce Miller Nursery and Farm
  • Chitty Wholesale Nursery
  • Circle G NurseryEstes, Inc
  • Kimbrew-Walter Roses, Inc.
  • Landmark Wholesale Nurseries
  • The LETCO Group LLC
  • Northeast Texas Nursery Growers Association
  • OHP, Inc
  • Ran Pro Farms
  • Texas Nursery and Landscape Association, Region 3
  • Tru-Liner Nursery Company
  • Helena Chemical
  • Troy & Mary Moser, in memory of Doug Burrows
Equipment Donated by:
  • Dosmatic U.S.A., Inc. (Injectors)
  • Dramm Corporation (Hoses, watering wands, etc)
  • Kinney Bonded Warehouse, Inc. (Reduced greenhouse price)
  • Texas IPM Program (Benches, utility pole, and horizontal airflow fans)
  • East Texas Nursery & Greenhouse Program (Installation of water, electricity, & natural gas)
If you are interested in helping sponsor the NTNGA Memorial Greenhouse project, please email Jade Hopson at Circle G Nursery, or phone her at (903) 963-5255.

The following press release was issued on July 14th by Robert Burns of the Texas A&M Agriculture Program. An audio clip is also available.

New Greenhouse Will Concentrate on More Environmentally Friendly Insect Controls

A new greenhou
se largely funded by the Texas nursery plant industry will research ways to reduce chemical use and increase biological control of insect and other pests, said Texas AgriLife Extension Service experts.

The greenhouse, which was built on the grounds of the Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Overton, was dedicated to industry leaders in a brief ceremony July 10. Attendees included commercial nursery owners and their families, and faculty from AgriLife Extension and Texas AgriLife Research.

"The greenhouse will be used to conduct research on integrated pest management techniques to support the East Texas bedding plant and nursery industry," said Dr. Scott Ludwig, AgrLife Extension entomologist and integrated pest management specialist based at Overton.

Integrated pest management, commonly known as " IPM," strives to use less chemical pesticides by correct timing of applications, pest identification and biological controls.

In Smith, Cherokee, Henderson and Van Zandt counties, the industry has wholesale gate receipts of $300 million, with a proportionally larger total economic impact on the region, Ludwig said.

As the Northeast Texas Greenhouse and Nursery Growers have members as far west as Dallas who will benefit from the work done at the greenhouse, the economic impact is even larger, said Dr. Roland Smith, associate director of AgriLife Extension.

The greenhouse and nursery industry is big business in Texas agriculture, ranking third in terms of cash receipts behind only beef cattle and cotton, Smith said.

"In 2007, the Northeast Texas Greenhouse and Nursery Growers were responsible for about three quarters of a billion dollars of cash receipts for their industry," Smith said. "This amounts to about 40 percent of the state’s total of greenhouse and nursery output."

The greenhouse was funded by the Northeast Texas Nursery Growers Association Memorial fund, which members started to honor association members who have passed away, said James Wilhite, owner of Wilhite Landscaping and Lawn Care, Tyler.

"Each time there is a benefit from this experimental greenhouse, we’ll remember the friends that have passed on before us that have made the nursery and landscape industry such a pleasurable place to work," Wilhite said.

One of those remembered will be Floyd Trammel, owner of Tram Tex Nursery Incorporated in Tyler. Trammel, who was one of the founding members of the Northeast Texas Nursery Growers Association, died in November 2007.

"We’ve lost several of our fellow nurserymen last year, along with my father, said Cyndi Trammel, who now manages Tram Tex.

"Our nursery is doing very well and being very successful because we have places like this that will do the testing for us," Trammel said. "As you can imagine running a full-time growing operation, it would be very difficult for us to set up a lab like this and be able to run the tests and do them effectively."

Trammel said she favors using environmental pest controls whenever possible because they're safer for workers to use.

Ludwig said the research will benefit growers statewide. "As the public demand for organic and sustainable-produced plants increase, it is important that growers have the know-how to meet the needs of the market," Ludwig said. "This facility will enable AgriLife Extension to conduct research that will aid growers to produce healthier plants for landscapes and homes."