Biological crop protection helps reduce chemical use

Thanks to the introduction of biological crop protection with predatory wasps and mites, bacteria and fungi, among others, the use of pesticides and other chemical agents in horticulture has dropped by between 50 and 90 per cent over the past 50 years, says Koppert.

The increasing importance of food safety and sustainable agriculture has also led to the growing use of biological crop protection in outdoor cultivation, according to Dutch company, Koppert Biological Systems, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. In the past five decades, Koppert has developed from a small pioneering concern with four employees, into a multinational with an annual turnover of 190 million euro and 1,200 employees in 26 different countries, including China, Brazil, the US and Russia. The company exports to more than 90 countries.

Its founder, Jan Koppert, started with just one insect in 1967; a predatory mite to control an infestation in his cucumber crop. Today, Koppert is sells biological crop protection in horticulture and produces mites, insects, microorganisms, plant extracts, bacteria and fungi, used worldwide against whitefly, aphids and spider mite, and diseases. The use of pesticides has dropped sharply especially in tomato, cucumber and sweet pepper cultivation. In the last few years, biological solutions have also been increasingly used in seed treatments, food crops, fruit and ornamental plant cultivation.

Another important company cornerstone is natural pollination by bumblebees which Koppert has produced since 1988.

Although much food is produced in greenhouses, most of the world’s food is cultivated in open fields. In greenhouses conditions are easy to control, but outdoors it is more difficult to work with these beneficial ‘creatures’. Outdoor cultivation therefore continues to use mainly chemical control agents. However, stricter legislation and criticism from consumer and environmental organizations exert increasing pressure.

Recently, Koppert started to produce microbiological organisms such as fungi and bacteria for outdoor cultivation which increase crop resilience and enrich the biodiversity and nutrient content of the soil. The company sees this as a huge growth market.

Executive board member Paul Kopport said: "Artificial fertilizers and chemical crop protection have been too dominantly present in the past years, adversely affecting soil life. This has to change and this is where fungi and bacteria can make a big contribution. Micro-organisms have long been underrated. Not only do they offer protection against diseases and pests, they also enrich the soil and make it healthier, significantly reducing the need for fertilizers. This is an important factor for future agriculture and horticulture."

The company says the use of chemical crop protection can be reduced considerably in outdoor cultivation. Executive board member Henri Oosthoek said: "There is an increasing demand for quality and safe food worldwide,’ says Executive Board Member, Henri Oosthoek. ‘We need to move towards agriculture and horticulture that does not work against nature but in harmony with nature. Resulting in more, better and safer food with less pressure on the environment. This is what we try to contribute towards each day."

To celebrate its jubilee year, Koppert is organizing different activities, such as an open day at its headquarters and an international symposium in September with well known speakers in the field.


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