In the Spanish province of Almeria, characterised by more than 30,000 ha of vegetable cultivation in polytunnels, biological pest control started to take off on a large scale in 2007. Natural enemies are now widely used, in combination with banker plants, pollinator-friendly plants and green borders. According to entomologist Jan van der Blom, they’re transitioning from sterile to agroecological horticulture.
Before 2007, every grower in Almeria started with a disinfected greenhouse. As soon as a pest or disease occurred, they’d get the chemical pesticides out. In other words, growers were creating completely sterile conditions.
“But in an area with 30,000 ha of greenhouses side by side, that isn’t a sustainable situation. One greenhouse with phytosanitary problems immediately causes problems for the surrounding greenhouses. You can’t isolate them”, explains Jan van der Blom. He’s been working in Spain since 2003, as head of the sustainable production techniques department of Coexphal, a non-profit association of horticultural companies in Almeria.
Van der Blom explains that they were nearing a situation where the vegetables had such high levels of pesticide residues that they could almost no longer be sold. “More and more often, people wondered how much longer they could continue to produce like that.”(..)
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