Growers around the world are applying large-scale biological crop protection. As a result, the use of insecticides in horticulture has declined significantly, while growers enjoy larger and higher-quality crop yields. Products grown with the help of biological crop protection are healthy and safe for both consumers and the environment. Supermarkets that sell vegetables and flowers consider aspects such as sustainability and environmentally-friendliness to be very important.
Biological crop protection
What is biological crop protection?
The idea behind biological crop protection is very simple: natural enemies such as predatory mites, ladybugs, and parasitic wasps are released to combat harmful insects, in the same way as they do in the wild. Koppert supplies various species of parasitic wasps, predatory mites, bugs and beetles, gall midges, and lacewings. Visit our YouTube channel to see how natural enemies attack their prey.
While more and more growers are using natural enemies to combat pests and diseases instead of chemical agents, this is not visible on the products themselves. Ask your supermarket and encourage them to adopt more sustainable practices.
If you buy a product labeled 'organic', you can rest assured that no chemical crop protection methods were used.
The card/sachet in the plant means that natural enemies were used to combat pests. This is a good sign and means you bought a sustainable plant! You can leave the card/sachet in the plant. It may still contain some natural enemies, which will continue to combat pests on the plant. Don't worry about these insects: they are only interested in pests and will die out when the pests have been eliminated.
What is natural pollination?
Vegetables such as tomatoes and sweet peppers are often propagated in greenhouses. By the time a delicious little tomato reaches your plate, it has already had a very long journey. The plant first has to form fruit before the tomato can actually start to grow. In nature, insects and other animals take care of the pollination and therefore the formation of fruit. Honeybees are traditional important pollinators of arable and horticultural crops. The bumblebee is a close relative of the honeybee. In 1987, it was established that bumblebees could prove extremely useful in greenhouses for the purpose of pollination.
Using bumblebees saves growers a lot of time and manual labor. The crops would otherwise have to be pollinated by hand. It also became clear that natural pollination by bumblebees yielded better results. It improved fertilization, enhanced the quality of fruit, and generated higher yields.
Koppert produces different types of bumblebees in different countries, depending on local legislation. These bumblebees are no longer produced for tomato crops only; growers of more than 120 different types of crops purchase our hives and bumblebees. Billions of bumblebees have since been produced. With the natural population of honeybees and other pollinating insects under threat, this production is more important than ever before.
Bumblebees use buzz pollination, which is essential for tomatoes and beneficial for blueberries.
Bumblebees also work well alongside honeybees.
The main differences are:
- bumblebees are larger and hairier than bees
- bumblebees do not produce honey
- bumblebees live in smaller colonies (hundreds instead of tens of thousands)
- a bumblebee colony does not hibernate, only the queens hibernate
Bumblebees are diligent workers. A single bumblebee can pollinate roughly 150 kilograms of tomatoes, visit a thousand flowers, and work eighteen hours a day. A bumblebee can travel up to ten kilometres away from its hive and collect and transport sixty per cent of its own bodyweight in pollen. And bumblebees don't let a bit of bad weather slow them down – they continue to work in cold, windy weather as well. That explains why bumblebees are used alongside honeybees, who prefer to stay in the hive in bad weather. Koppert’s bumblebees are also extremely healthy. Independent institutes assess their quality and health, and Koppert carries out its own strict inspections.
Unfortunately, consumers cannot order bumblebee colonies.
This information on bumblebee stings provides guidance for reducing the chance of being stung by a bumblebee and about the possible reaction to a sting and treatment.
In addition to beneficials and pollinators, microbial products such as bacteria and fungi form a third pillar for the sustainable production of plants and crops. Even though they cannot be seen with the naked eye, these products – which can be used above ground and underground – have the potential to do incredible things. They combat diseases and pests, strengthen crops, and improve the absorption of nutrients. Their development calls for high-quality and costly scientific research.
The process may differ, but the biological fungicide Trianum is an excellent example. Trianum is based on the fungus Trichoderma harzianum. Spores of the T-22 strain colonize a plant's root system and keep pathogens at bay.
Are you working on an assignment for school? If so, visit http://www.secretagentsinhorticulture.com/ for information about biological crop protection, natural pollination, and microbiology. You can also find a lot of information at www.koppert.com, but this information is geared towards professional growers.