Almost every exhibitor at IPM had a sustainable message this year. Integrated pest control methods using natural enemies and organic products are used more and more throughout the entire floriculture chain.
By Peter van Leth
The large number of visitors with badges promoting plant health pinned to their bags said it all: it’s a hot topic. And indeed, many exhibitors had something to say about it too.
Fritz Haas for example, general manager with Palmeto, a 60-ha, Costa Rican nursery cultivating ficus benjamina and lily turf. Haas exports his crops as juvenile plants, mostly to Dutch growers. His customers have tightened their requirements for plant health and demand that fewer pest-control products are used, so as the preceding link in the chain, he must adhere to that, too.
But that’s easier said than done when your crops are in the open field in an area with heavy rainfall eight months of the year, says Haas. Intensive crop scouting is a good starting point and something he does more than you would for indoor plants. In addition, he uses nutrition to enhance the resilience of his plants.
The grower also tries to improve his soil with the help of beneficial fungi and bacteria. In that regard, the green-plant grower can benefit from the local knowledge gained from larger crops like banana, melon and pineapple, which are all grown extensively in the Central-American country.
Based on the business challenges that Palmeto is facing, it would make them an ideal customer for German company Bioplant Naturverfahren, says co-owner Rolf Würthle. Their products, sold under the name Biplantol, are designed to enhance soil life and make crops stronger. The products are made with natural ingredients. Würthle calls it homeopathy for plants.
The Biplantol products can be applied preventatively, at the beginning of the cultivation period, via the watering system. The producers guarantee that usage results in a 20% reduced need for fertilisers and a 30 to 50% reduced need for fungicides.
For the time being, Bioplant Naturverfahren doesn’t supply to Costa Rica, nor to the Netherlands. But their sales to professional growers in Germany, Switzerland and Austria are steadily increasing. “Those growers are less conservative than Dutch growers, when it comes to experimenting with sustainable products”, says Würthle. However, considering the developments with regards to the pesticides on offer, he expects to see this change soon. Würthle isn’t worried about any approval procedures before he can ship to the Netherlands. His products have already been approved for the German market, after all.
On the right track
Notwithstanding Würthle’s personal experience with Dutch growers, nurseries in the Netherlands are generally committed to a sustainable approach to plant health. Based on the registration data they collect, MPS confirms this idea. “We’ve observed a significant decrease in the use of chemical products and the use of harmful chemical pesticides in particular”, reports commercial manager Remco Jansen. He feels that this is thanks to a growing awareness of sustainable crop protection and more stringent requirements imposed by distribution channels, environmental organisations and consumers, as well as the efforts of various parties that are trying to make plants more resilient.
In fact, it has been reason for MPS to adapt their registration system. The new system has an even stronger focus on impact on the environment. “The aspect of harmfulness to the environment is going to play an even more important role than it did in the current registration system. We’ll be able to get a clearer and more accurate idea of the actual use of pesticides and nutrients. An accurate score”, emphasised Jansen.
Growing awareness hygiene
Royal Brinkman used IPM as an opportunity to launch their hygiene concept HortiHygienz. A protocol that’s becoming more and more important for ornamental-plant growers too, according to Jan Willem Keijzer, operational product manager. “It isn’t just relevant to rose growers who want to keep ralstonia out, but also to many pot-and-bedding-plant growers, who need to keep the water in their ebb and flow system as clean as possible to prevent problems like fusarium and phytophthora.”
The concept is based on three main pillars and starts with mapping the actual risks. The requirements of buyers/customers (certificates) are taken into account. It’s important that the proposed solutions are feasible, after all.
Each case is linked to a hygiene specialist, who acts as a central contact point for all suppliers involved in that particular hygiene case. “And this is how, through the use of appropriate cleaning and disinfecting agents, combined with the best techniques and systems, hygiene can be taken to a future-proof level in a structured way”, concluded Keijzer.
Year of Plant Health
Something that many exhibitors at IPM weren’t aware of, is that the United Nations declared 2020 as the International Year of Plant Health (IYPH). The companies were delighted to hear the news though, and some of them will probably use it in their business communications later on and at the next edition of IPM.
The UN hopes that the extra attention will increase people’s awareness of plant health and support policymakers to achieve sustainable development goals.
The International Association of Horticultural Producers (AIPH) welcomes the UN initiative. “Addressing the spread of plant pests and diseases is of outmost importance, if we want to ensure a vibrant and dynamic plant-trade industry in the future. The fact that such a prestigious organisation acknowledges the importance of this topic, is very positive”, said Tim Briercliffe, Secretary General of AIPH.