Pest and Disease Prevention
The success of the protocols mentioned in the following sections relies upon proper maintenance of equipment and the establishment of sanitary regimes such as inspection, sterilization and order of entry. All material coming from outside the Phytotron is inspected for pests or disease prior to placement in a growth chamber or greenhouse room. All growth rooms are sterilized before the start of experiments by heating to 45C for 3-5 days to kill eggs, larval and mature insects and/or pathogens. An order of entry is instituted to minimize the spread of disease or infestation between zones.
Monitoring & Recording
All plants within the facility are examined for pest or disease problems by the Phytotron staff on a regular basis (twice weekly during summer months or in infected areas). A Pest Management Form is initiated for each individual experiment to record and track pest outbreaks, treatments utilized, influencing factors and success of efforts. Yellow sticky monitoring traps are set up at the beginning of experiments to detect any flying insects. Plants are visually inspected and flower taps are done. Each pest is identified. Where species identification is difficult samples are sent to a governmental agricultural station for verification. The percentage of plants affected and the degree of infestation are rated on a scale of 0-6 and recorded.
Treatment is of two types: prophylactic and prescriptive. In cases where known pests are repeatedly found, prophylactic measures are instituted. Once pests have been detected and identified, infected plants are immediately treated (prescriptive treatment). Pests are reduced through compatible physical and/or chemical means. The appropriate biological control is introduced and cultural and environmental conditions are modified (where possible) to favor the life cycle requirements of the biological control agent (BCA). Pest and BCA populations are subsequently monitored and appropriate intervention taken.
Communication & Advisement
Phytotron staff have a responsibility to keep users informed on the status of any pest problems and to notify them of any spray treatment that is being planned to minimize phytotoxicity and/or experimental disruption. Although users are ultimately responsible for the care of their plants, the Phytotron staff is available for consultation on all matters of plant growth, plant health, pest issues and welcome user's questions.
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Phytotron Research User Responsibilities
Pest & Disease Prevention
If at all possible, all plants should be started from sterilized seed within the Phytotron using an appropriate soil mixture. Because of nutrient deficiency and pathogen infection, soil cannot be reused. Plants should be potted in clean pots (either new from the Phytotron or used that have been washed and sterilized). Plants brought in from areas outside the Phytotron must be inspected by one of the Phytotron Managers to eliminate the possibility of pest introduction. Users should arrange an appointment for inspection prior to bringing their plants to the Phytotron.
As users spend considerable time in the presence of their plants, they should also assist staff in the examination and early detection of pest problems. Users should have a working knowledge of common pest symptoms and be able to spot any potential problems. In this way early treatment may be instituted and pest effects minimized.
Order of Entry
To minimize pest spread, an "order of entry" protocol exists throughout the facility. Users should enter clean areas first and move to infected ones and never the reverse. Typically this means starting out in the TCR or growth chamber area and then proceeding upstairs to the greenhouse. Once in the greenhouse, rooms are entered in the same sequence: clean to infected. An order of entry sequence is posted on two boards visible from either end of the greenhouse corridor. After leaving an infected room, users should exit the facility immediately. They should not re-enter any other greenhouse room nor return downstairs to the growth chamber/TCR area.
Users should ensure proper care of their plants in growth chamber or greenhouse areas. An adequate watering and fertilizing regime that meets the soil moisture and nutritional needs of the plants should be established. This regime will vary according to seasonal and environmental growing conditions as well as the age of the plant. Users should monitor their plants daily to adjust variables as needed.
Pruning of old senescing parts should be done regularly to maintain health. Plants that are kept for long periods of time should be repotted to assure healthy growth. Overcrowding of floors or benches is to be avoided to prevent and or reduce pest incidence. In growth chambers plant height should be kept below the height of the light canopy.
To assure a healthy population and reduce pest and disease incidence, plants should be segregated according to age. One growth room should be reserved for young plants and a separate one for older ones. Seedlings that are known to be prone to pest attack should be started in growth chambers first and then transferred to a clean greenhouse room. Rare or genetically valuable plants should only be reared in growth chambers where environmental control is more precise and exposure to pests and pathogens is much reduced. Plants that are particularly important should be replicated by cuttings or tissue culture and kept in separate locations to minimize the chance of loss.
At the end of the experiment, discarded plant material and soil should be quickly disposed of (see Plant
Users are required to keep their growing facilities clean and in good order at all times. Growing facilities should be inspected daily and all litter or plant debris removed. Dead leaves at the base of plants or on benches or floors should be removed and placed in a sealed garbage bag within the growth chamber or greenhouse compartment. Sealed garbage bags should be placed in a garbage bin for transport to the loading dock. Dirty pots or other paraphernalia should be removed from growing areas, cleaned and stored in user labs.
Disposal protocols have been established to reduce or eliminate the possibility of pest or pathogen transmittance. Before entering your growth chamber or greenhouse room take a garbage bag from either the harvest room or headhouse. Place discarded non-transgenic material in the garbage bag, seal it and remove to the central garbage area. Large amounts of material should be put in several bags and placed into carts for removal to the loading dock. Transgenic plants should be disposed of according to NSERC guidelines. It is the researcher's responsibility to ensure proper disposal.