Drone application controls spider mite in Italian tomatoes
Italy produces more tomatoes than any other European country, so it should come as no surprise that we play an increasing role in the biological control of harmful spider mites in this important crop. Following the successful application of Spidex in greenhouse tomatoes, drones are now being used to effectively distribute this natural enemy of spider mites – the predatory mite Phytoseiulus persimilis – over large outdoor acreages with good results.
Biological control of spider mite
‘Koppert’s biological solution, Spidex, was originally introduced to Italian greenhouse tomato growers in the ‘90s, so it was a small step to convince them to apply the same solution to larger outdoor crops,’ says Koppert Italy’s Market and Product Development expert, Francesco Bourlot. ‘Due to the increasing pressure of spider mite in tomatoes since then, and the ban on many chemical pesticides, we started to release this natural solution via drones in the field in 2019. By the end of last year, we were applying Spidex to some 500 hectares of outdoor tomatoes with good results.’
In Italy, there are about 7000 ha of greenhouse tomatoes and 70,000 ha of tomatoes grown in open fields for processing purposes. ‘Spider mite is the main problem in many areas with the highest concentration in the processing tomato production,’ Francesco Bourlot points out.
Successful aerial and tractor application of Spidex
A key element in open field application of Spidex has been the development of aerial distribution using drones. Our drone distribution device won the EIMA fair innovation prize in 2022, and we'll be testing our terrestrial tractor distribution device during this year’s growing season.
‘These two outdoor application devices have opened a huge potential for the distribution of our natural Spidex solution for outdoor tomato growers in Italy and elsewhere. Our bigger volume packaging for the agricultural market that comes out later this year, means we will be able to promote this product even better,’ Francesco Bourlot explains. ‘The new packaging will allow for even faster handling and lower prices per hectare. We are expecting an annual sales growth in biological solutions of 20 to 30% over the coming years.’
The expected growth in sales of biological products is essentially the result of increasing retail pressure for residue-free products and consumer demand for healthy food. ‘More than 90% of the growers we work for are satisfied with the efficacy of Spidex and wish to continue using our natural solution for spider mites,’ Francesco Bourlot concludes. At Koppert, our partnership with nature means our biological solutions are continually in development to bring growers even better answers to agricultural challenges.