When the season winds down, crop manager Pascal Eijking from Schrijnwerkers Blueberries likes to open a hive of Tripol. ‘That's when I can see just how well the bumblebees performed as the hive is filled with brood, Eijking explains. 'These bumblebees are more productive than other pollinators and the quality of the populations is consistently good. We can deduce this from the more plump and larger-sized fruits being cultivated.'
At Schrijnwerkers Blueberries, Pascal Eijking is responsible for cultivation. This company, located in Grubbenvorst in the Dutch province of Limburg, is well-known in the blueberry industry. With an area of 24 hectares, the company belonging to Leon and Anja Schrijnwerkers is a large producer of blueberries. This company also cultivates young plants for fellow producers at their plant nursery, Schrijnwerkers Plants. Schrijnwerkers Blueberries is also a partner in the German company Blueberry Giant, located in Weeze just across the border.
Pascal Eijking has been working at Schrijnwerkers Blueberries since 2011 and was put in charge of cultivation. Since then he has been working closely with Rik Lenssen, advisor at supplier Mertens, who was already advising the company.
Intensive pollination is required
Schrijnwerkers Blueberries cultivates twelve different varieties of blueberries. With early, middle early, and late varieties, the company has a permanent presence on the market and always presents a top-quality product. Each variety has its own particular pollination period. To cover this, an intensive pollination takes place for a period of four to seven weeks. ‘Once the flowers of a variety start to bloom, it has to be pollinated within three days. We use bumblebees, honeybees, and mason bees to ensure that pollination is achieved. These three types of bees together ensure that each variety and plot is well-pollinated.’
The value of Tripol
Pascal Eijking says the Koppert Tripol hives are extremely valuable to the company. ‘The crop is less attractive to honeybees during periods of dry weather. This is when the bumblebees become incredibly useful as they remain active even during bad weather and ensure that the hard work of pollination continues.
The mason bees create a lot of work for the crop manager. He explains that Tripol is much easier to use. ‘We use three to four hives per hectare. I put them down, open the shutter, and then leave the bumblebees to do their thing. I can trust the bumblebees to successfully pollinate the crop. And so far, this has always been the case.’
According to Pascal, the success of the pollination can be observed in the increased size and plumpness of the berries, and that is exactly what Schrijnwerkers Blueberries needs. Blueberries are very popular as they contain high levels of anti-oxidants. Schrijnwerkers produces blueberries exclusively for fresh consumption for retailers across Europe, and specifically in the UK, Germany, and Scandinavia.
Supplier Mertens, delivers the Tripol hives and five other products from the NatuGro range by Koppert to Schrijnwerkers. ‘We want to get the very best out of our plants,' Pascal Eijking explains. 'We want high-volume crops, beautiful fruits, and lots of flavour. NatuGro helps us to achieve this. We can see that production increases faster. When a crop ages, production declines. But with the use of NatuGro products, that production increases again. This also helps new crops reach the height of their productivity within four to five years, rather than the standard six or seven years. That’s incredibly fast.
The most productive bumblebees
Pascal Eijking is not surprised about the great results he has achieved with the help of the Tripol bumblebees. At the end of a season he will sometimes open up a hive. ‘When you look inside and see the hive filled with brood, you know that the bumblebees have been working hard. These are undoubtedly the most productive bumblebees.’
‘Koppert and Mertens claimed that Tripol was the best product on the market,' he concludes. ‘So, to test whether this was true I bought bumblebees from a different manufacturer. I learned my lesson. These bumblebees delivered inferior pollination results, and the quality of the hives was not as good. In fact, they even contained pests. Tripol delivers consistent quality, and that is important to us.’