Integrated Pest Management
What is the definition of IPM?
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is the careful consideration of all available pest control techniques and subsequent integration of appropriate measures that discourage the development of pest populations and keep pesticides and other interventions to levels that are economically justified and reduce or minimize risks to human health and the environment. IPM emphasizes the growth of a healthy crop with the least possible disruption to agro-ecosystems and encourages natural pest control mechanisms.
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- Propagation: Grodan Rockwool A-OK sheets
- Veg: Pro-Mix HP in 1-Gallon Premium Nursery Pot
- Flower: Pro-Mix HP in 7-Gallon Premium Nursery Pot
- Heavy 16: Veg, Bloom, Roots, Prime, and Finish
- OG Biowar: Foliar and Nute Pack
- Botanicare: Cal-Mag Plus
- Humboldt Nutrients: Verde
- Microbe Life: Photosynthesis Plus
(Feeding Style) Currently hand watering drain to waste. Looking into automated Argus and Dosatron systems.
(Size) 10’ x 20’ with multiple levels, we are making more room per square footage that the floor plan shows.
(Lighting equipment) T5 lights, I use 4′ – 4 bulb units because I have found that 6 bulb units are too intense.
(Media) We use the Grodan Rockwool A-OK sheets. There are like 98 plugs per sheet. We used peat plugs to start out with, and then our cloning needs got to the point where it was way too much maintenance. They dry out way too fast. We could not get as many of those in one dome as we could with the sheets. So we switched over to the Grodan Rockwool.
(Size) 1000 sq. ft – Once they transplant from propagation, they are moved into a 20’ x 20’ room, in which we also use rack system. There are 2 aisles, and each of those have 3 levels. In that room, we are working with about 400 – 500 plants at any given time, which is about 2 cycles for us.
(Lighting equipment) LumiGrow Pro 650 High Voltage (HV 480v).
(Media) Once we move from Grodan Rockwool, we transplant into 1 Gallon Premium Nursery Pots via Pro-Mix HP. Although, we are switching it up after this harvest, and we are going to go straight coco. We are looking at those Canna Coco Bricks because they tested clean through MA state for pesticides, heavy metals, and plant growth regulators (PGRs). All of our media needs to be lab tested. The coco bricks are a huge space saver when you are working with commercial grow styles. For me to stock as much Pro-Mix I need for the year, it is a whole warehouse. The compact nature of the coco bricks is going to be great. We use Pro-Mix after that as well, when we transfer them into 7 Gallon Premium Nursery Pots as a final pot.
(Feeding Style) We do hand watering right now, but that is going to be changing soon. The original director of cultivation had set it up because originally MA required us to use 100% organics, even nutrient-wise. And the reason they changed it was because of the heavy metals. So the original director was not comfortable setting up an irrigation system for organic stuff like that. His ultimate goal was to kind of use a super soil type of system. Where it was just hand watering plain water. To do it on this scale would be something else! Unless we were buying the soil, the cost would be astronomical. You would be introducing all types of pests with that organic mass-produced soil. It was just an option we tried to get around.
We are in the process of redesigning the room to be automated. And the other two rooms, once they are built out, will be automated as well on that system. We are going to go with the Argus system because it can do every room where we have every individual irrigation loop. It is a pretty straight forward system to use. I have only seen it used in one other place. It can get pretty sophisticated, down to putting specific PPM of each element into your mix. The customization on it is top notch!
In the smaller veg. rooms where less nutrients are needed, we are utilizing Dosatrons. In the bigger flowering rooms, where there is more work to be done, we will be using the Argus system. The feedings are a couple times a day, instead of once a day.
(Size) Approximately 6,500 sq. ft. of flowering space, divided into 4 rooms. The 2 biggest rooms are 80’ x 24,’ then a 63’ x 24,’ and a 59’ x 20.’
(Lighting equipment) Those are all lit with LumiGrow Pro 650w LED Grow Light with Tri spectrum fixtures.
(Feeding Style) Automated feeding regimens with the argus system.
Other organic methods of pest control are “bio-pesticides” and “bio-fungicides.” These are bacteria or fungi that act like pesticides, keeping the dangerous and unhealthy organisms out of the product.
Massachusetts law also requires microbiological screenings of the product. Unfortunately, microbiological screenings don’t distinguish between helpful bacteria/fungi and harmful ones. If you use bio-pesticides, you are risking failure of the microbiological screenings. Some people say that Photosynthesis Plus works well as a foliar spray, but it could make us fail our tests for bacterial counts. This severely constrains the kinds of pesticides we can use. The problem can be avoided by using the bio-pesticides early in the plant’s life cycle, although it severely limits the bio-pesticides use.
Additionally, Massachusetts law has stringent limits on the amount of heavy metals present in our product. We are required to be 5 to 10 times lower than any other state that regulates heavy metals. The metals we look for are cadmium, mercury, arsenic, and lead. We test every pesticide and nutrient we receive for the presence of heavy metals. The biggest problem with testing for heavy metals is that the results can be wildly inconsistent. We can test the same batch 5 times, and get 5 different results.
If I were to predict anything, the programs that MA, CO and WA have are going to be the base models for the rest of the country to follow. As California votes in November, bigger companies will emerge and it will become easier to regulate the industry.
When it comes to the IPM testing:
- Every product gets tested. If I’m sending them a batch of flower for sale, they test cannabinoids, heavy metals, pesticides, plant growth regulators (PGRs), full microbiological screening and then mycotoxins.
- When the flower is going to be converted into oil, it will only be tested for pesticides, heavy metals, and CFCs.
- Every single finished product, no matter what it is, gets a microbiological screening before it goes out.
We apply pesticides about 3 days a week, with a rotation of Biosafe Systems ZeroTol, a neem oil product, and Procidic.Jordan Mello
Jordan Mello’s IPM Regimen
Regulations change constantly. You need to cover your bases and be cautious on things you bring in.Jordan Mello
Editor’s Note: Here is a quick link to Massachusetts’s state laboratory testing protocols.
Spider Mites: These are even easier to wipe out than Thrips. We used Azamax when we first identified spider mites, well before we had plants in flowering rooms. Every other day for 10 days, we used Azamax on every plant in the building. We have not seen spider mites for a year and a half since then, knock on wood.
Powdery mildew: We use a combination of the Procidic from urban-gro and ZeroTol. It is just an alternation between the two. Powdery mildew replicates, and it is really difficult to get rid of it with just ZeroTol. Now we are at the point where it is under control, and we are doing maintenance. The combination of the two is pretty much unstoppable. If I’m doing a maintenance spray with the ZeroTol, I might as well do a maintenance spray with Azaguard and kill two birds with one stone. It makes it really easy, in terms of cutting down labor.
- Come in and switch out of their street clothes
- Equip their in-house shoes with booties on top
- Put on their in-house scrub type work clothing
- Wear black nitrile gloves and hair nets
Each room will have have a lab coat for that room. It instills good habits and isolates rooms from each other without taking too much time out of their schedules.
My other big suggestion is that you should be aware of people who call themselves “experts”. We have had 3-4 consultants that have come in claiming to be experts, and urban-gro showed that they were wrong. It is an interesting industry and finding people to trust is tough.
Growers Network Questions
The interesting thing about my job is that none of my days are ever the same.Jordan Mello
- Biosafe Systems ZeroTol — anything biosafe is great! We use their SaniDate to clean our hard surfaces, but their ZeroTol is probably my number one.
- Myron L’s PH pen, aka “Dexter’s Lab pens”. Those things are awesome! They make it so easy to test my run offs, I literally just have a little pen in my pocket that can literally tell me down to the 1/100th of a pH.
- When we are dealing with lights, we prefer the Method Seven Green Lens LED glasses. You cannot see anything under purple lights, so it allows you to see details in the plants and pay attention to exactly what is going on.
We check runoff three times a week for PH and EC and making sure all of our flushes are going well, while making sure our nutrients are not too high or low. I’m in charge of all cloning duties, except transplanting them.
My harvest schedule is already set for the next 2 years. Every room is planned ahead of time, which is obviously subject to change as the situation merits. A lot of my week just goes to maintaining inventory and putting the protocols in place to make sure our inventory is in line. And then I call Growers House to make sure we have all of our nutrients and stuff like that. And then I work with the state inspectors when they come in and answer their questions.
This is all just an example of what could happen in 1 week for me.
- First thing I would do is automate watering. Let’s call that $200k, being conservative.
- After that, I would invest in solar panels, which cuts down a huge chunk of cost to produce. If I can get production cost down, it means more money for us.
- I would probably invest the rest on double-ended, high-pressure sodium lights and mix them in with our LEDs. Our yield could be better in terms of what we could be producing off of the hyper sodium lights.
- These tools would cut our production costs in thirds. At that point, it would be a couple dollars per gram. This is our first year of operation, so I had to break down to the penny, what it costs to produce an ounce, including. electricity, water, labor, nutrients, soil. It roughly comes out to $35/oz to produce. My goal is minimizing that number!
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About the Author
Hunter Wilson is a community builder with Growers Network. He graduated from the University of Arizona in 2011 with a Masters in Teaching and in 2007 with a Bachelors in Biology.