Glades Crop Care, 2008 Friends of IPM Award Winner
IPM Implementer

The highest priority to Glades Crop Care owners Madeline and Charles Mellinger is helping Florida growers to succeed. That priority drives them to hire the best staff, learn the best information and find the best answers. So when Glades Crop Care was nominated for a new southern region Friends of IPM Implementation Award last year, the Southern Region IPM Center and its Advisory Council agreed that Glades had more than earned the Friends of IPM Award for Implementation.

Initiated last year by the Southern Region IPM Center in Raleigh, North Carolina, the Friends of IPM Award recognizes individuals and groups that have made outstanding contributions to integrated pest management, an effective and environmentally-sensitive approach to pest management that relies on a combination of practices. The award program includes six awards: innovation, implementation, teaching, teamwork, leadership, and achievement. The implementation award was designed for those who use IPM every day or work closely with those who do.

Working side by side with growers on a daily basis, Glades consultants, auditors and researchers understand first-hand the challenges of using integrated pest management in the field, along with the rewards of a successful strategy. Their successes have helped them grow to be the largest crop consulting company in the southeast. Glades consultants work with over 45 fresh market vegetable crops and cover over 60,000 acres. And their growers rely on the consultants’ advice and pay attention as they identify pests in each field and offer solutions to problems based on the pests’ biology and ecology.

Biointensive pest management solutions are at the heart of Glades’ beginnings. Glades president Madeline Mellinger started Glades in 1972 to provide growers with environmentally-friendly options to pest management. Specializing in biology and entomology, Madeline intended Glades to model the location of its headquarters close to the Everglades. In addition to inspiring the company name, the Everglades inspire Glades’ mission to provide innovative solutions to pest and disease problems that are easy on the environment.

“It all fits,” says Madeline. “It combines human safety and environmental safety. However, the key to a successful sustainable systems approach based on IPM is that growers need to be able to do it profitably.”

Successful sustainable approaches hinge on correctly identifying a pest problem, a concept that Charles Mellinger knows all too well. With a doctorate in plant pathology, Charles joined Glades as technical director in 1980. Five years after he began his career at Glades, he encountered a problem that had stumped every plant specialist in the state—and one that even he couldn’t solve. Small white dots with a dark center were appearing on tomatoes, making them unacceptable as fresh market fruit. But it didn’t resemble any disease or insect damage symptoms that anyone had seen before. So Charles did what he has taught the rest of Glades’ staff to do: he networked.

At the American Phytopathology Society conference that year, he handed out photos of the spotted fruit while giving a speech on “the Pitfalls of Consulting.” He explained that as a result of the spotted fruit the photos, two growers had fired his company because they could not recommend a solution to the problem. To his delight, one scientist recognized the symptoms; the recent crop of Thompson grapes had exhibited similar spots. The scientist identified the cause as the egg-laying of the Western flower thrips.

The identification proved to be critical for Glades. No one in Florida at that time had the expertise to identify thrips. So Charles contacted an entomologist at the University of Georgia to learn to identify Western flower thrips and other thrips.

“After that contact, we have been able to monitor our damaging thrips species up through today,” Charles says.

In 1992, a Glades Crop Care entomologist, Galen Frantz, made an even more critical identification of Thrips palmi , an invasive pest that entered the US from the Caribbean. The identification earned Glades a Certificate of Appreciation from USDA—one of the many successes they’ve enjoyed through their collaboration with others.

Besides their extensive crop consulting services, Glades also offers research services including crop trials, pesticide efficacy tests and market research. Working with the crop consulting staff, Glades researchers discovered a biological control method for Thrips palmi and western flower thrips—planting sunflowers, a popular habitat for one of the thrips’ biggest predators.

Their most recent endeavor—food safety education and third party food safety audits for growers and packers of fresh produce—has allowed Glades staff to reinforce some of their advice to growers, as well as making the staff even more aware of the importance of discovering new ways to manage pests effectively. Glades Crop Care performs third party audits for the GAP’s, GMP’s and the GlobalGap program, an international food safety program that sets “best practice” standards on chemical inputs to ensure worker health and safety and consumer health. The food safety standards have helped the Glades staff emphasize the vital linkage of integrated pest management and a high quality food safety program.

Although the expertise of their staff members is key to their ability to assist growers, the Mellingers agree that Glades Crop Care’s success relies on their staff members’ communication with each other and with experts from other states.

“This is a learning organization,” Madeline says. “Whenever someone learns something, they ask themselves who else needs to know. No one on the staff feels that they can get a leg up by keeping a secret. That has served us and our clients really well.”

Southern Region IPM Center director Jim VanKirk says that Glades has been a true Friend of IPM to the region and was proud to be able to offer the award.

“Glades has been a national leader from the private sector and an asset to the region,” says VanKirk. “I am very pleased that we could publicly recognize them with this award.”