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Greenhouse Sanitation by Paul Pilon

December 07, 2010

We’ve all heard about the importance of sanitation, but many growers only implement sound sanitary practices at certain points in their production systems.  Sanitation should be viewed as an ongoing task. In many instances, the introduction and/or spreading of various pest organisms can greatly be reduced with sound sanitary practices throughout the growing season.  Not only is sanitation the first line of defense against potential problems, but it is the simplest and most cost effective component of a pest control programs. Sanitation essentially involves two key strategies: cleaning and disinfecting. 

Cleaning involves physically removing existing pests from within and around the growing area.  Some common practices include removing all plant debris, rouging and disposing any diseased plant materials from crops, and controlling weeds (which serve as alternate hosts of plant pests) in and around the greenhouse.  Keeping a clean production area greatly reduces future pest problems.

Disinfecting involves applying anti-microbial agents (quaternary ammonium compounds, hydrogen dioxide products, and 10% solutions of household bleach) to kill all pathogenic organisms.  Many growers provide foot mats and hand washing stations containing disinfectants or anti-bacterial soaps at the entry points of the production areas to prevent pest organisms from entering.  It is important to disinfect floors, bench surfaces, plastic pots and trays, tools, and equipment between uses.  Growers should note that household bleach is NOT an EPA registered disinfectant for application in greenhouses and nurseries and should only be applied to non-crop areas.

There are numerous strategies used to help growers maintain a high level of cleanliness in their production sites. Properly cleaning and disinfecting greenhouses at the beginning of and between crop cycles is an important aspect of pest management. Inspect all plant materials for pests before placing them in the main production area. If insects or diseases are found, treat them with an appropriate product before transplanting them or placing infected plants into the greenhouses. These steps will help ensure your crops are as clean as possible and will limit the number or outbreaks or ‘fires’ you’ll have to contend with.

There are numerous strategies used to help growers maintain a high level of cleanliness in their production sites.  Properly cleaning and disinfecting greenhouses at the beginning of and between crop cycles is an important aspect of pest management. Inspect all plant materials for pests before placing them in the main production area.  If insects or diseases are found, treat them with an appropriate product before transplanting them or placing infected plants into the greenhouses.  These steps will help ensure your crops are as clean as possible and will limit the number or outbreaks or ‘fires’ you’ll have to contend with.

There is much to be said about the premise of starting clean and staying clean. It is beneficial to scout crops routinely and in many instances, preventive programs can be implemented to reduce to occurrence of certain insect pests and diseases.  With proper preparations, good sanitary practices, and sound production practices, growers can reduce the occurrence of many cultural problems during production.

The key to successful sanitation is to instill the mindset of cleanliness to your employees, implement several simple, yet effective, sanitation strategies into your production plans, and to remain as clean as possible throughout the growing season.

Paul Pilon
Perennial Solutions Consulting
paul@perennialsolutions.com

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