Hide this

header-growing-tips

Let’s Go To War: Battling Plant Disease To Ultimate Crop Victory Featured

  • Written by  M.K.
  • Video
Get these expert tips for dealing with hydroponic grow room pests. Get these expert tips for dealing with hydroponic grow room pests.

 

Successful hydroponics growers tend to be many things—hard workers, risk takers, individualists. In addition to these things, a prosperous grower must also be a warrior. No, I’m not promoting violence per se, but sooner or later, every grower has to go to battle against the enemies of indoor hydroponics gardeners everywhere: the dual combo of pests and disease.

When you feel the hit from insects or viruses, the level of financial devastation can be extreme. You sink an enormous amount of work and money into getting your hydroponics venture off the ground, and an issue of pests or disease can pull the rug right out from under you. The loss can be very heavy. We’re talking tens of thousands of dollars and a lot of hard work. And unfortunately, these threats to your crop are universal in that, sooner or later, every hydroponics grower has to deal with this hurdle.

Whether you’re a newbie or a pro, the bugs and diseases don’t care. All they see is a plant to feed upon. In fact, I know some experienced growers who’ve gotten hit hard by bugs and had crops decimated, not because of laziness or employees not on the ball; it’s just that sometimes things get out of control so quickly that you’re three steps behind and it’s hard to play catch-up.

Having fruits with marks all over them or pieces chewed through signals to your buyers that you supply produce of inferior quality, which means the market will dictate a lower dollar value than what you would have gotten if you had successfully treated your problem.

If you’ve never been through an irreversible infestation, it might seem like a ruined crop is as bad as it gets, but, believe it or not, there are degrees of loss even with a completely demolished harvest. For instance, losing your crop in the beginning stages of growth is a punch in the gut, but at least you’re not too far along. On the other hand, being deprived of your harvest at the end of a crop cycle means that even more time, effort and money have disappeared without reward or compensation of any kind. Being forced to start over when you’re three or four months into the cycle is crushing to a hydroponics business. If you’re expecting a payday and that payday gets pushed back several months, your business takes a serious hit.

But wait. It gets worse still. The fallout from being thrown off your business schedule by several months can also affect your relationship with your customers. If you have a marketplace set up to accept your fruit and your customers don’t receive your crop they’re counting on, it is detrimental to your reputation. After all, as an indoor hydroponics gardener, your livelihood isn’t just the growing itself, but also the transactions that create the wealth we’re all looking for. If there’s demand in the marketplace for your particular crop, customers will find supply elsewhere.

Even if an unchecked insect problem doesn’t completely destroy your crop, it will still harm the product. Having fruits with marks all over them or pieces chewed through signals to your buyers that you supply produce of inferior quality, which means the market will dictate a lower dollar value than what you would have gotten if you had successfully treated your problem. In the case of plant diseases, the color of your fruits might change or you can end up with lighter weight fruits, which makes it hard for your product to compete when the market prefers dense produce.

Most hydroponic gardeners take pride in their work, so when you grow something of diminished quality, your self-esteem takes a hit. You have to pick yourself up, be rigorous and habitual, and stay on top of things so these problems don’t arise.

Unlike the common stereotype of the hydroponics enthusiast, a good grower is alert and on the ball. Discovering a problem early is crucial, and hitting back just as it starts can be the difference between a big paycheck and no paycheck at all. Here’s the most important thing: Whoever’s in charge of your operation, whether it’s you or an employee, must be a committed grower. Don’t half-ass anything. Your plants need inspection every day, which means you must leave no leaf unturned. Running a grow room means doing a lot of chores, and being on the alert for pests and disease is one of them. Double-check. Be thorough. You don’t want an infestation.

Avoiding infestation requires more than watchfulness. It’s a cliché, but it’s true: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

To achieve this goal, it’s good to develop a regimen. Be militaristic and cultivate habits that compel you to stick with a vigilant routine. It’s so easy for things to get out of control with pests and disease, and you want to avoid that downward spiral.

For instance, if you get rid of a problem while your plant is in the veg phase, it has a chance to bounce back health-wise and thrive through the flower cycle. However, once you hit the bloom phase, the plant is putting itself under more pressure and building flowers, so if its immune system is weakened, that can lead to disfigured growth, stunted plants and smaller yields.

It’s important to act quickly, but you must also be educated about what you’re doing. Misdiagnosing a problem can swiftly turn into a big issue. If you buy a common garden spray at your local nursery, it may not have ingredients designed to affect the pests in your grow room. Instead, it’ll just rinse them off the leaf temporarily, and they’ll come back a few days later in full force. If you see a bug in your garden, put it in a jar or a ziplock bag until you can check a book or the Internet to confirm what it is. That will determine what steps you need to take to eliminate your particular problem.

In The Art of War, Sun Tzu wrote, “For to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.” This is really the crux of my message here. Avoiding infestation requires more than watchfulness. It’s a cliché, but it’s true: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Use some sort of organic spray every seven to ten days to prevent insects from finding a leaf that they can call home. Neem oil or a little dish soap and water are both effective in making your plants unattractive homes to bugs looking to set up shop. Neem oil has a foul smell and dark color, and contains properties that insects find unfavorable. Neem is cheap, but requires a double application in that you spray it on and then rinse it off later, so it’s a little more labor-intensive than other options.

There’s also pyrethrum, which is an extract that helps combat insects. It’s a little more potent and a little more expensive than neem oil, but only requires a single application once every five to seven days.

At no point in the last two weeks of flowering should you use any type of non-organic spray. Most pesticides take two to four weeks to break down on a plant, and no one wants to take their produce to market covered in harmful chemicals.

Keep in mind, these organic sprays are great for prevention, but probably won’t treat a big problem adequately. If you hit the point of infestation, you may have to pull out the heavy weaponry and get into chemicals. When fighting spider mites or aphids, there are miticides out there that do the job and then some, and they’re made so that they don’t hurt your plants. Typically with these products, there’s no buildup on your plants’ leaves and everything washes right off.

The main issue that I have with miticides is that many of them can be carcinogenic, containing chemicals that are poisonous not only to bugs, but to humans as well. If you’re going to use a miticide, it’s imperative that you use protective goggles, a respirator and a full protective suit. Only experienced commercial growers who have been trained to use miticide should ever go that route.

If you’re going to go with chemicals, a fogger works best. It atomizes your pesticide, and creates a fog that coats every inch of your plants, making sure that nothing gets under-sprayed. If you use a conventional pump sprayer or backpack sprayer, you’ll need a keener eye than with a fogger. If you miss two or three leaves, your bugs might look dead, but then a few days later, eggs hatch on those missed leaves and you have a problem all over again.

At no point in the last two weeks of flowering should you use any type of non-organic spray. Most pesticides take two to four weeks to break down on a plant, and no one wants to take their produce to market covered in harmful chemicals. That will affect the taste and quality of your fruits, and could hurt your reputation as a supplier of top-notch products.

Besides pests, another nightmare for growers is disease. Mold and mildew are consistently a thorn in the side of commercial hydroponics gardeners, and can lead to fruit rot, which will spoil your crop from the inside out. In this case, the outside of your fruit might look fine, but the inside is rotten, which leaves you with a useless crop.

If mold and mildew are recurring problems for you, use a sulfur burn, or a copper- or sulfur-based spray once every week as prevention. You can also use charcoal scrubbers, charcoal filters, or HEPA filters, which pull contaminants out of the air rather than letting them float around and create little havens where they can incubate, erupt and cause huge issues.

Sometimes the problem with disease boils down to deficiencies. A problem with pH balance or a nutrient deficiency can leave plants more susceptible to disease and rot.

Also, be meticulous in controlling the variables of your grow room. If the temperature of your grow room fluctuates more than 10 degrees between the day and night cycle, that will create a breeding ground for powdery mildew.

If you do a good job of controlling the light, humidity, temperature and air flow in your grow room, mold or mildew won’t be an issue, or will be very light and easily eliminated with the aforementioned foliar sprays.

Sometimes the problem with disease boils down to deficiencies. A problem with pH balance or a nutrient deficiency can leave plants more susceptible to disease and rot. With deficiencies, a lot of times growers aren’t sure what’s causing disease, so they go out and buy a wide array of products to try and fix the problem. However, adding multiple products can upset your balance even further. Find out which one or two deficiencies could be troubling your plants and work on them independently. Don’t hit your plant with five or six products thinking that will be a cure-all.

By balancing and keeping on top of your nutrient regimen using a plant-specific fertilizer, and properly checking the pH balance of your feeding solution, you can avoid deficiency problems. Keep everything in check. If you’re running an indoor facility effectively, you’ll solve problems before they arise.

I can’t emphasize enough that the key to dealing with pests and disease is prevention. Get on it early. That said, although you want to start preventative measures when your plants are young, you don’t need to treat seedlings or cuttings. Young plants can be susceptible to a buildup of residue or harmful substances that are detrimental to their health. Start using an organic preventative spray after two weeks of vegetative growth.

© Copyright RosebudMag.com, 2012



To create link towards this article on your website,
copy and paste the text below in your page.




Preview :


Powered by Rosebudmag © 2019
Follow Rosebud Magazine on Twitter Check out the Rosebud Magazine Facebook
Share this article with your friends, family and co-workers
You may have bug problems in your grow room from time to time, but at least they’re not the length of your forearm.
Last modified on Wednesday, 12 December 2012 18:36

Want To Grow Bigger?

 

Twitter-Button

Follow growers on Twitter

 

FacebookButtonJoin grower discussions on Facebook

 

email-icon-1Ask our expert growers questions at: experts@rosebudmag.com

Growers Underground
QuickCure
© Rosebud Magazine, 2010 - 2018 | All rights reserved.

Login or Register

LOG IN