Any crop that provides a habitat for beneficial insects can be used as a banker plant. One of the greenhouses at Johnny’s research farm is dedicated to peppers and eggplants — both of which are susceptible to predation by aphids. In addition to the peppers and eggplants, space has been reserved for containers of oats which serve as banker plants by providing habitat for oat aphids. The oat aphids are released into the oats, which are then covered to allow the population of the pest to grow.
Why would someone release an aphid of any kind into their greenhouse and then build their population? The oat aphid is host-specific to only oats; it won’t attack any other crop. At Johnny’s, once the oat aphid population has grown, Greenhouse Manager Pam Carter releases parasitic wasps that attack aphids of all kinds, including those that pose a danger to the peppers and eggplants. As a side benefit, the oats can also provide habitat for ladybugs, another beneficial insect and predator of aphids.
For those of you with concerns about the use of insecticides, banker plants are a practical alternative. In many cases the resulting natural controls by beneficial insects will reduce the need for insecticidal applications.
Johnny's offers a line of farm seed and other types of seed varieties that Attract Beneficial Insects »
To learn more, see our articles on Attracting & Putting Beneficial Insects to Work »