Pests and diseases (& weeds) need controlling in commercial horticulture. This may be to protect nursery stocks of plants, to protect crops, or to preserve plant displays, gardens and landscapes around offices, businesses and other commercial enterprises. It might also extend into sports grounds, golf clubs and other privately owned venues.
Scope of Work
The services side of the commercial horticulture pest control industry is vital to the well-being of the industry. Wherever there are living things, there is a risk of health problems. Many of these are caused by insect pests like scale insects and aphids, but others are caused by animals like slugs, snails or mice. Others health problems are caused by diseases. Diseases are produced by pathogens which may be bacteria, viruses, or more usually in the case of plants, fungi. People working in this sector must have good knowledge of pests and diseases.
Work can involve:
Monitoring and identification of pests and diseases - consulting
Preventative treatments - cages, hygiene
Controlling or removing infestations - spraying, traps, biological controls, IPM
It is important to know spray and other equipment and understand personal protective equipment and regulations surrounding the use of chemicals, especially on crop plants but also when using chemicals in built-up areas.
Some may find work with large orchards and other enterprises, or as advisers to commercial industries where there is a need to control a specific pest e.g. fruit fly.
What You Need to Learn
Horticulture fundamentals - Plant structure, soils and nutrition management, tree care, turf care, pruning, landscaping, planting, transplanting, fertilising
Health management - Pests, diseases and environmental disorders, biosecurity
Pest biology - Anatomy, physiology, life cycles, environmental triggers
Control techniques - Natural, chemical, preventative
Types of equipment - Know a range of different types of equipment used in applying chemicals, storing chemicals, mixing chemicals, maintenance & repair of equipment
Product knowledge - Selection of the right chemicals for the job, operation & correct use
Communication skills - Dealing with clients, arranging appointments, giving advice, presenting monitoring programs
Health & safety - Assessment of risks & hazards, use of personal protective equipment, fire alarms & drills, location of first aid kits, basic first aid procedures
Starting a Career
There are many pathways into working in pest control. Some people transition from related careers such as:
Garden centre employee or nursery man
Farm hand or labourer
People who are starting from scratch can enter into the industry through:
Studying a variety of pesticides and applications with a short course
Exploring organic and low-chemical options for pest control
Volunteering with local parks and garden societies
Studying pest types and environmental differences
Progressing a Career
Knowledge of pests and disease control is always going to be sought after in commercial horticulture. People with knowledge of how to treat or prevent pests and diseases can make a long and rewarding career in this field so long as they are willing to keep learning. This can be done through attending workshops and seminars. These may be provided by employers or arranged by keen individuals themselves.
Another option is to take some study and in particular to ensure you have good knowledge which addresses each of the points listed under ‘things you need to know’ above. It is important that any study undertaken is relevant and of a high standard. It should be provided by reputable course providers who have qualified staff who are able to give up-to-date feedback. This will cement your knowledge and ensure you are desirable to employers.
Professional development is also important. Science, products, equipment and techniques are constantly changing and improving in horticulture like every other industry. If you are disconnected from industry change, you will not remain competitive with others who are up to date. It is therefore a good idea to be involved with a professional or trade organisation.
Within pest control there are opportunities to move up the ladder from general assistant to supervisory roles, team leader or management. Some may ultimately set up their own pest control businesses or they may move into the retail or manufacturing side of the industry.