Marjolein van der Knaap and Peter Vogel. Anthura has a wide range of measures in place to maximize the quality and the health of the plants awaiting delivery.
In some cases, customers at home and abroad have to work with products from Anthura for as many as 30 weeks before they go to the end market. It is therefore extremely important that the product they receive is healthy and clean. Aphid control is becoming more difficult, and Anthura is currently devoting additional attention to how it can be managed.
‘We’re seeing how much harder we need to work with the biology – we want to accelerate progress,’ explains Peter Vogel. Peter is the cultivation manager at breeder Anthura, based in Bleiswijk, the Netherlands, and works with two cultivation specialists, sharing responsibility for the plants at the company's anthurium production site. Things need to move faster, and not only because the government is increasingly removing pesticides from the market and the fact that use of those products that are available is subject to ever more stringent restrictions. Rather, it's the non-statutory measures imposed by retail chains on their suppliers that are the biggest concern. ‘And they aren't necessarily uniform,’ explains Peter. ‘One doesn’t want to see one active substance; the other prohibits use of another. Through trade and our direct customers, these varying requirements ultimately find their way to us. It makes plant protection much more complex.’
Getting started with Aphiscout early on
Those measures are particularly helpful when it comes to aphid control. Working with consultant Marjolein van der Knaap, Anthura is currently investing heavily in an approach being followed by one of company’s departments. In the department in question, a 1.4-hectare area, pot sizes are larger and plants remain for longer than average. Anthura is attempting to avoid all use of pesticides in the department this season and is introducing natural enemies much earlier. ‘We started with Aphiscout in week 5 with a dose of a half parasitic wasp per square metre and reintroduction every two weeks. The five natural enemies in Aphiscout should be able to keep the aphids under control for as long as possible. Here, we are tackling the green and red peach aphid, cotton aphid, and black bean aphid.
An ambitious goal
As soon as a certain species of aphid begins to develop more aggressively, Anthura will add in a specialist natural enemy. That would usually be Aphiphar or Ervipar. The company is also keeping Aphidend and Chrysopa on hand to tackle and clear any hotspots. ‘We want to use this approach to take things as far as we possibly can, but it is a little tense,’ explains Peter. ‘We hope that it will work out in this department. But will it work in the other departments where we have smaller plant material and where we have larger movements and therefore a greater likelihood of cross-contamination? Success is not an automatic guarantee.’ Nevertheless, Peter Vogel and Marjolein van der Knaap hope that at the end of 2020, they will be looking back on a success story. Peter continues, ‘That would mean that we didn’t have to use any pesticides against the aphids. It’s certainly ambitious, but we need to make progress with the biology, things have to move at a faster pace.’
The company is constantly looking for ways to make anthurium cultivation more sustainable. Intensive scouting is carried out every week, including in the dispatch department, which is effectively a form of export check. ‘Some of our customers have to work with our product for more than 30 weeks so it needs to be clean. Plants that appear to be damaged by whatever pest, no matter how small, are pulled out and discarded.’ And plants that have left the greenhouse are not, in principle, returned to the greenhouse so as to prevent contamination from the dispatch area to the greenhouse. The breeding department at Anthura uses natural enemies, and breeders look closely at the pest sensitivity of varieties in development. ‘By using plant sap analyses, we attempt to reveal the links between nutrients on the one hand and resilience, growth, plant quality, and infestation in the anthuriums on the other. We do everything we can, and we're happy to do so. The market is now extremely intolerant and that poses serious challenges to us and our customers. It needs to be addressed.’