Nov 2, 2020
Biological control programs and COVID-related changes headline 2020 Great Lakes EXPO sessions

For greenhouse growers, the Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable & Farm Market EXPO and Greenhouse Growers EXPO brings many educational opportunities each year. And although the 2020 Great Lakes EXPO is going completely virtual, this year’s educational opportunities will be just as meaningful.

Raymond Cloyd is a professor in the department of entomology at Kansas State University. In his time at Kansas State, he’s mainly focused on everything horticultural entomology and greenhouse nursery — including focusing specifically on greenhouse and nursery pests as an Extension researcher. 

Cloyd will be contributing to two sessions at this year’s EXPO — the first, dealing with common problems encountered by growers when implementing biological control products. Tying into the first session, the second session will then focus on the factors that influence a successful biological control program, focusing specifically on quality assessment.

“We’ll discuss the problems that greenhouses may encounter, including not developing sound scouting programs and not assessing the quality of purchased biological control agents,” Cloyd said. “It’s a very complex strategy — it’s not the same as just picking up a container of Safari, spraying it and you’re done. You have to take the right steps.” 

Although the session is targeted specifically toward greenhouse growers, Cloyd says the information can go “well beyond” the greenhouse — benefitting some outdoor production and hemp growers, specifically.

Bridget Behe, a professor in the horticulture department at Michigan State University, has been studying ornamental and edible crops for over 23 years. In the “Keep the Plant Demand Growing” session, Behe will share data that’s been collected over recent months to help greenhouse growers and retailers understand plant purchasing behavior — and how to implement changes made due to COVID-19 in a more long-term way.

“Because of (COVID-19), earlier this year, retailers had to make big shifts for the safety of both their customers and employees,” Behe said. “In this session, what I want to do is help people understand what mechanics have seemed to work well, and what will probably be staying with us (beyond the pandemic).”

From early- to mid-2020, Behe said the university collected data from a nationwide survey examining consumer behavior, specifically as it relates to plant purchases. In the survey, they asked about all of the different motivations for purchasing plants during the pandemic, how the purchasing broke down by demographic and understanding why demand in plants seemed to rise.

“The goal is to put those two pieces of information together to help retailers and greenhouses have a comprehensive strategy for next spring,” Behe said. “Safety is the new luxury … I don’t think many of the COVID-induced changes are going away. And that takes some communication by the retailer.”

For the first time, the 2020 Great Lakes EXPO is going virtual! Aside from the health and safety benefits, shifting the 2020 EXPO to a virtual platform also means that the educational sessions will have a wider variety of content and speakers, no limits in attendance size and easier Q&A capabilities with growers.

For information on the 2020 Great Lakes EXPO, registration and educational session details and more, visit

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