December 1997 // Volume 35 // Number 6 // Ideas at Work // 6IAW1

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Implementation of a Statewide Poinsettia IPM Educational Program in Connecticut

This describes the development of a Poinsettia IPM program in Connecticut. The program emphasizes hands-on training at growers' greenhouses. This provides growers will the knowledge, skills and confidence they need to reduce reliance on pesticides while maintaining or increasing crop quality by applying IPM methods. The ultimate benefits of IPM are cost savings to growers and lowered impact to the environment and ground water.

Leanne S. Pundt
Associate Cooperative Extension Educator/Greenhouse IPM Coordinator
University of Connecticut Cooperative Extension
Haddam, Connecticut
Internet Address:

There are more than 413 farms producing floriculture crops in Connecticut. These include bedding plants, foliage, potted plants, and cut flowers. Poinsettias are an important potted crop; the wholesale value of the crop in 1996 was 2.5 million dollars (Floriculture Crops, 1997).

Growers are concerned about producing a high quality crop while maintaining environmental quality. Integrated pest management (IPM) programs were developed in response to this need. The fundamental difference from traditional approaches to pest control is that IPM uses two or more management techniques (i.e., cultural and environmental control), and applies chemical control measures only when necessary (Abbey et al., 1997).

In 1993, a Poinsettia IPM Program began emphasizing grower education. Training focuses on the identification and biology of key insects and diseases, scouting techniques, and pest management decision making. Growers are encouraged to use pesticides with lower toxicity, to use alternatives to traditional pesticides, and to use cultural and environmental controls for disease management whenever possible.

Weekly sessions are held at a participating grower's greenhouses from August to December with training continuing for up to two growing seasons. This intensive training provides participants with the knowledge, skills, methods, experience, and confidence they need to maintain an effective IPM program. This is critical for ornamental plants because of their high value combined with an extremely low tolerance for pests (Parella & Jones, 1987).

Hands-on training like this is valuable for two reasons. First, it enables growers to become more comfortable using specific scouting tools, such as a hand lens, to monitor for pests such as whitefly immatures that are too small to be easily seen with the naked eye. Confusing the whitefly pupae with eggs is common leading to improper timing of pesticide applications. Showing growers how to regularly inspect plants for key insects and diseases is critical to developing a consistent scouting program.

Second, growers learn how to use pest-infested plants as "indicator plants" to track pest development and to evaluate treatment effectiveness. Treatment decisions are made based upon pest population trends, the stage of the crop, and the grower's judgment (Pundt & Smith, 1994).

IPM program evaluations are based on the change in pesticide use patterns and post training surveys. Pre- and post- IPM spray records are reviewed to see if less pesticide was applied. Since 1993, 13 pounds of pesticide active ingredient have been withheld from a total of 274,000 square feet of production. This also contributed to maintaining water quality in Connecticut by reducing the application of pesticides with severe or moderate potential for leaching into the ground water. This is also a total savings of $1230 for the 12 participating growers.

Second, post-training surveys are designed to determine the knowledge gained by participants. Growers are asked to rate their knowledge on a scale of one (poor) to four (excellent) on insect identification, insect life cycle and biology, pest scouting, and disease identification and management (Abbey et al., 1997). As the IPM program has evolved, knowledge gained by the participants has increased dramatically from a 9.4% increase in 1993 to a 34% increase in 1996.

Growers are also asked to rate their crop quality after IPM training. Since 1993, all participants rated their poinsettia crop quality as good to excellent. All participants reported that they would recommend this program to other growers. One grower stated at the end of the training: "Speaking for myself, I feel that I have become much more familiar with scouting and its uses. As a result, whitefly populations in our poinsettias were very low requiring little spraying."


Abbey, T. J. Boucher, R. Durgy, D. Ellis, F. Himmelstein, D. Karpowich, L. Los, G. Nixon and L. Pundt. (1997). State of Connecticut Integrated Pest Management Program 1996 Annual Report to the Connecticut Legislature. Storrs, CT. The University of Connecticut, Office of Communication and Information Technology.

National Agricultural Statistics Service. (1997). Floriculture crops 1996 summary (U.S.D.A. - N.A.S.S. Publication No. Sp Cr 6-1(97). Washington, D.C.: U.S. Printing Office.

Parella, M.P., and V. P. Jones. (1987). Development of Integrated Pest Management Strategies in floricultural crops. Bulletin Entomological Society of America. 33:28-34.

Pundt, L. and T. Smith. (1994). Scouting and Decision Making. In. R. McAvoy (Ed.), Proceedings of the 1994 New England Greenhouse Conference (pp. 24-28). Sturbridge, MA: New England Floriculture, Inc.