Be Prepared: Horticultural Oil App’s Coming Soon!

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Some milder temperatures are coming up in the forecast, soon it will be time for dormant horticultural oil applications in many areas of southern Ontario.  Some horticultural pro’s will be starting applications in the extreme southwest region of the province first.   (Photo by:  P. J. Jentsch_Cornell. Susceptible, overwintering nymphs of San Jose scale on Malus, I have also seen it on Prunus x cistena, purple-leaf sandcherry).
You may want to wait a bit until the temperatures become consistently milder. The warmer it is outside, the more active the overwintering insects will be (e.g. respiration) and therefore, the more susceptible they are to a smothering agent such as horticultural oil.

When can I apply Horticultural Oil? Dormant hort oils should not be applied if the temperature is below 4C or if the temperature will approach freezing soon after application of the dormant hort oil spray.  The freezing temperatures can mess with the emulsion of the oil mixture and cause uneven application.  Do not apply oil when temperatures are excessively high (>30C).  High temperatures can be associated with drought stress and those plants may be damaged.

How late can I apply Horticultural Oil? As long as there is no sensitive vegetative or flower tissue emerging (see product label for host plant tolerance), you can still make dormant rate, horticultural oil applications for overwintering insect pests.

How do Horticultural Oils work?  Insects do not breathe through their mouths, they breathe through pores on the sides of their abdomens, called “spiracles”.  Horticultural oils cover the spiracles, preventing respirations.  The treated insects suffocate.

What pests can be managed with dormant applications of Horticultural Oil?  Some good examples of overwintering pests that can be managed with dormant oil

SCALE INSECT NYMPHS:

  • Magnolia scale (Magnolia)
  • Fletcher scale on evergreens (Thuja, Taxus)
  • Cottony maple scale (Acer, Viburnum, Prunus)
  • European fruit lecanium scale (Acer, Quercus, Fraxinus)
  • European elm scale nymphs (Ulmus)
  • San Jose Scale (Fruit Trees, Prunus, Acer, Salix)
  • Tuliptree scale (Liriodendron)

MITE EGGS:

  • European red mite eggs (Malus, Pyrus)
  • Maple spider mite eggs (Acer, especially reds and silver-red hybrids)
  • Spruce spider mite eggs (Abies, Picea)

Some plant health managers use dormant applications of horticultural oil as a smothering agent for egg masses (e.g. eastern tent caterpillar, viburnum leaf beetle).  Not only could the oil layer help reduce oxygen flow to the maturing eggs but the residual oil may also provide a barrier to impede the hatching larvae from successfully moving out to developing foliage.

What are some important points to remember when using Horticultural Oil as a dormant treatment?

When using horticultural oils, agitation and rapid drying important. Remember, although there are emulsion agents in the oil, you are still mixing oil and water to get a uniform solution.  Anything you can do to keep the solution mixed well during the application process will result in a more even application layer.

Always spray horticultural oils under conditions that will support rapid drying.  It is prolonged wet conditions that can lead to phytotoxicity and unsatisfactory management of pests.  Never apply during wet conditions or conditions where relative humidity is > 90%.

Horticultural oils are a lot more refined than they used to be.  Impurities associated with phytotoxicity are nearly completely removed through extra filtration, distillation and dewaxing.  If the horticultural oil product you are using also has summer uses on the label, then it’s likely a highly refined horticultural oil.

I read the pest control product label last year, should I read it again? Always read the label before applying any pest control product.  Be aware of the common warning statements on horticultural oil labels, they can change from year to year.

What are some caution statements I should be aware of?  Never spray sulphur with (or within 30 days of) a horticultural oil application as the combination can be phytotoxic.

Horticultural Oil – Plant Sensitivity – WARNING

To prevent injury, DO NOT APPLY ON: ARBORVITAE, BEECH, BUTTERNUT,

HICKORY, WALNUT OR WHITE PINE. PERMANENT DISCOLOURATION OF

FOLIAGE WILL OCCUR TO BLUE VARIETIES OF JUNIPER AND SPRUCE.

Japanese Maple, Japanese Holly, Sugar Maple and Silver Maple may be sensitive to oil sprays. Non-woody plants such as ferns may be damaged. Bark injury may occur on Red Delicious, Empire and Mutsu apples. Do not apply to apples or pears after green tip. Only 1 application per season for peaches. Do not apply to broad-leaved evergreens or palms when freezing temperature may be expected within 3 weeks after application. Avoid spraying during or immediately prior to hot weather (over 30°C), hot dry winds or rain. Do not apply if frost is expected before spray dries.

Take a look at the date of the pesticide label (top left corner) and see if it has been revised since you last checked the most recent label online.  All Canadian pesticide labels can be found by clicking here

About Jen Llewellyn

OMAFRA Nursery and Landscape Specialist @onnurserycrops
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