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ENVIRONMENTAL TWIST TO HOLIDAY FAVORITE: SCIENTIFIC ADVANCES MAKE HEALTHIER POINSETTIAS

 MINNEAPOLIS, Dec. 25 /PRNewswire/ -- The lush, red poinsettia plant you carried home from the florist could be the result of microscopic warfare pitting "good" insects against "bad" bugs. For years, greenhouse operators have been fighting pesty, root-eating fungus gnats on poinsettia plants. The tiny bugs flourish in humid greenhouse conditions -- making them a major problem.
 Now, growers are using an environmentally responsible method to control the gnats: nearly microscopic, naturally occurring organisms called nematodes. Millions of commercially bred nematodes come packaged as Exhibit(R) in a special gel that suspends animation. Greenhouse operators add an activating ingredient and then spray them on poinsettias and other greenhouse plants.
 The nematodes aggressively seek and parasitize target insects such as fungus gnats. The juvenile nematodes carry a bacteria that is lethal to the undesirable bugs -- but have no effect on the rest of the ecosystem. If no target insects are found, the nematodes die within 14 days.


Living organisms are, of course, the original pest control tools. But packaging and shipping, plus a limited shelf life, presented enormous barriers to commercial nematode use. Ciba-Geigy, the world's largest pesticide manufacturer, added nematodes to its product line-up as part of the company's commitment to the environment. The nematodes are suspended in a rubbery, gel-like substance. The nematodes live, but do not expend energy. The gel, containing 250 million nematodes, is packaged in one-gallon plastic containers with a permeable port in the lid to allow moisture and oxygen to enter and carbon monoxide to escape.
 "Environmental advantages and the fact that the nematodes have no effect on greenhouse workers led to growing demand for the product," says Ciba-Geigy's Scott Moffitt. "People like the fact that they can apply it and then enter the area right away. Traditional pesticides sometimes require a waiting period. And, customers like the fact that nematodes have no effect on the rest of the ecosystem. If no target insects are found, the nematodes die."
 It's a scientific advance in the quest to find environmentally responsible solutions to insect problems. And since the Poinsettia Growers Association projects that more than 50 million poinsettia plants will be purchased this holiday season, millions of Americans are likely to enjoy the results.
 -0- 12/25/92
 /CONTACT: Kim Brown of Mona, Meyer, McGrath & Gavin, 612-832-5000 or 612-566-4757; or Skip Ragland of Ciba-Geigy, 919-632-6000/


CO: Ciba-Geigy ST: North Carolina IN: CHM SU:

DS -- MNFNS1 -- 9904 12/25/92 07:30 EST
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Dec 24, 1992
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