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Biopesticides (biological controls) is a new class of pesticides, that is gaining marketshare in response to our demand for sustainable, non-toxic solutions to pest control of food crops. One of these products is Serenade.
Synthetic Pesticides vs Biological Controls
Conventional pesticides, are synthetic compounds that typically kill pests. The problem with this class of pesticides, beside adverse effects on human health, is that it also effects non-target organisms such as beneficial insects, wildlife and pets. In addition synthetic pesticides often contaminate valued environmental resources such as water, air and soil.
Biopesticides are “naturally occurring substances that control pests by nontoxic mechanisms.” Many of them are microbes or fungi that are isolated out of their normal environment for application to an infected plant. I have used several of these products with good success.
Examples of Biopesticide
Surround, is a highly refined, micronized kaolin clay that can be spayed on apple trees to create a barrier for pests, such as coddling moth which is common in our area. This is using clay, similar to what’s used to make pottery, to fight pests.
Another example is Spinosad, which is a natural insecticide. It is a compound produced by certain microbes that were first discovered in soil found at an abandoned rum factory in the Caribbean Islands and is now patented by Dow Chemical.
Spinosad is a broad-spectrum, organic insecticide. The term “broad-spectrum” means that it is toxic to a wide variety of insects, however, it’s relatively non-toxic to mammals and beneficial insects. It works primarily through ingestion and effects insects that actually eat something, such as a treated leaf. This is different than a lot of other broad-spectrum insecticides that are toxic if the insect merely comes in contact with the residue.
Spionsad is the active ingredient in commercial products such as Sluggo and Enthrust. It is very effective for control of slugs, caterpillars, colorado potato beetle and many more bugs.
As for Serenade, the active ingredient is a soil born fungi called Bacillus subtilis. Bacillus subtilis is so common that if you are standing on soil, you are probably in contact with Bacillus subtilis.
Bayer has patented a strain of this fungi (called QST 713) which is sold under the name Seranade. Seranade does four things, 1) it’s a fungicide, 2) it an antimicrobial agent 3) it promotes plant immunity and 4) it stimulates plant growth (vigor.)
Peach Leaf Curl and Powdery Mildew
When a tree is infected with a disease such as Peach Leaf Curl, we can help the tree by 1) making sure it is not attacked by other pests and diseases and 2) improve the vigor of the tree with good irrigation, fertility and pruning practices.
Another common fungal disease of peach tree is Powdery Mildew. When infected, young leaves may drop or fail to elongate and unfold in a normal fashion. Imagine a tree that has lost it’s leaves due to Peach Leaf Curl, have it’s new growth under attack by Powdery Mildew!
Serenade is not labeled for treatment of Peach Leaf Curl (even though some farmers claim that it works for that purpose.) However Serenade is very effective against Powdery Mildew. In addition, Serenade increases tree’s vigor and immunity, which helps the tree fight all kinds of diseases.
I use Serenade on almost all fruits and vegetables mostly to increase vigor. While handling requirements of Serenade is straight forward, the product is effective for only 10 days. This means three times a month, you have to spend 10 to 15 minutes treating your peach tree, until fall when we will attempt to eradicate the disease for next season.