Chemical crop protection is not sustainable, regardless of the sales market. Now is the time to make the transition. ‘Those who wait too long to make a change will be sidelined in the future.’, says ornamentals cultivation consultant Richard Saarloos.
There are differences between the various supermarket chains in the UK, but in general they are highly critical of their suppliers and the quality of the products. Dutch Poinsettia growers who export to the UK know all about this. For example, there is a zero-tolerance policy towards Tobacco whitefly (Bemisia tabaci). ‘The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) will reject suppliers if there is a suspected presence of Bemisia – even if these have been parasitized by parasitic wasps,’ explains ornamentals cultivation consultant Richard Saarloos. ‘I'm trying to get DEFRA to be more nuanced in its approach to this by consulting with various stakeholders in the UK.’
Great results in Canada
Poinsettia growers in Canada are achieving great results with beneficials to combat whitefly. Richard sees this as an opportunity to give biological control in Poinsettia cultivation in the Netherlands an additional boost. ‘Koppert wants to achieve the same results that are being obtained in Canada here in the Netherlands and other countries in Europe. The use of the flower in Christmas floral displays makes it a sustainable market, as Dutch growers produce approximately seventeen million Poinsettias a year. The total production in Europe is 100 million per year.’
Richard is overseeing two tests at the farms Green 05 and Stals, in which Koppert is researching the effectiveness of supplementary feeding for parasitic wasps and various predatory mites. Together with breeding and propagation company Beekenkamp, they are also researching the possibilities of growth inhibition with NatuGro to replace the need for chemical growth inhibitors.
These studies have not yet yielded any results, but they are expected and eagerly anticipated. ‘Poinsettia growers understand that there is no future for total chemical crop protection and that something has to change,’ says Richard. ‘German retailers are already using lists that contain products over and above the statutory minimum, and it is expected that UK retailers will follow. Dutch Poinsettia growers are well aware that they need to respond quickly to this development. We are therefore making a concerted effort to implement integrated pest management in Poinsettia cultivation.’