Faced with pest resistance and strict product regulations, Bob Blink of Lyfted Farms needed a solution that worked.
In the years before cannabis became a legal crop in most states, the only crop protection and nutritional products came from hydroponic shops and homegrown products. Efficacy was hit or miss, and even growers of legal medicinal cannabis lacked access to the tools used by mainstream agriculture. When cannabis was completely legalized in California and at least 11 other states (and to some degree in 31 others), Bob Blink, owner of Lyfted Farms in California’s Central Valley, was quick to look into other tools available.
“Gerald O’Connor, CEO of KeyPlex, was one of the first to reach across the line to me,” Blink says, He wanted to understand the pests and diseases prominent in our industry and see if his products could help. And they were a great fit for our needs.”
Lyfted Farms currently grows 10,000 square feet with plans to expand an additional 57,000 square feet by 2021. Blink says the main problems he faces are mites, thrips and powdery mildew, compounded by the fact that the pests are resistant to many insecticides already due to his facility’s proximity to surrounding orchards.
“California only allows a very small list of active ingredients for use on cannabis,” Blink says. “And our location in the Central Valley means we are surrounded by orchards, many of which use harsher, chemical insecticides. So the mites and thrips that get into our greenhouse are already very resistant to a number of pesticides. Between the resistance and the limited products we can use, it’s a real challenge.”
New Mode of Action Made the Difference
KeyPlex’s Ecotrol Plus Plus fit the space between a rock and a hard place. Because it is made from a blend of essential oils derived from plants, it met California’s requirements. And because it has been extensively tested and proven to be effective on a wide variety of insect pests, including thrips and mites, it gave Blink the results he needed.
Rather than knocking down pests temporarily, only to have them reoccur, Ecotrol Plus finally provided knockdown and eradication.
“The intial application we did a couple of years ago really made a difference,” says Tim Shoemake, COO at Lyfted Farms. “After that knockdown of the larger population, we are able to stay on top of things with applications of Ecotrol Plus every 7 to 10 days.”
Ecotrol Plus offers a number of benefits besides efficacy. Because it is made from essential oils from plants already considered edible, it is considered Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) by FDA. It has no maximum residue limits, a zero pre- or postharvest interval and a zero worker reentry interval. This means maximum flexibility with application timing. In addition, it is difficult for insects to develop resistance to Ecotrol Plus, since it is composed of multiple complex molecules, unlike single-molecule synthetic chemistries.
“We are a publicly traded company, and it’s very important to keep human health and safety at the top of our list of priorities,” Blink says. “We are producing a consumable product, and anything we can do to facilitate a cleaner product with no residuals is important. It’s been a great fit between our company and KeyPlex.”
Tank Mixing with Fungicide Adds Flexibility
In addition to Ecotrol Plus, Lyfted Farms uses Sporan, a broad-spectrum biofungide, to control powdery mildew. Like Ecotrol Plus, it is composed of plant essential oils and offers the same worker safety and no residue limits. Shoemake says another benefit is that it can be tank mixed with Ecotrol Plus and sprayed in the same application. Previously, he says, products they have used have not necessarily been compatible, so individual applications were required.
“It’s been terrific for us, Shoemake says. “We can mix Ecotrol Plus and Sporan together, have excellent efficacy on the mites and thrips, and also manage the powdery mildew. It simplifies our program and we still get great results. It’s a great product line.”
Lyfted Farms uses an IPM program that includes scouting and Ecotrol Plus and Sporan for most of the 60- to-70 day cannabis vegetative stage in the crop cycle. But toward the end of reproductive stage they hold off on spraying and use beneficial insects once pistils are formed and maturing.
The flower is the end product, and the resin glands within the flower that produce the scent and flavor are quite sticky, Shoemake says. While the KeyPlex products are safe, we don’t want anything to affect the flavor of the final product.”
And finally, Blink says the ROI with the KeyPlex products makes their use a no-brainer.
“Cannabis is a high-value crop, so of course its success is extremely important to us,” Blink says. “And some products you see in the cannabis market are higher priced as a result – the cannabis premium. KeyPlex looks at cannabis like they look at any other plant species that they work with, so with the positive results and a reasonable price point, it’s just a win-win. We’re extremely excited about not only what we have been doing with KeyPlex, but also in partnering with them in the development of future products.”