Category: News
Date published: August 04, 2023

A viable alternative to chemical pesticides: Koppert’s natural enemies effectively control pests in outdoor crops

For over 50 years, growers around the world have applied our beneficial insects and mites to protect their crops against pests. First in greenhouses and now also in outdoor crops. The use of natural enemies in agriculture is gaining traction. Improved packaging and new application methods are simplifying the use of our biological solutions in the field. By working closely with growers to optimize existing solutions and develop new solutions, we are expanding our portfolio of natural and sustainable alternatives to chemical pesticides for outdoor crops.

Using natural enemies in outdoor crops

Our biological solutions help improve crop health and resilience and protect against diseases and pests. The use of natural enemies, such as parasitic wasps, differs from the use of conventional crop protection products. In greenhouses, the use of our beneficial insects dates back many years. Greenhouses provide a safe and controlled environment for insects and mites to hunt their prey. But natural enemies are also highly effective in combatting pests in outdoor crops, offering a viable and safe alternative to chemical solutions. In recent years, more and more growers have taken the plunge.

Successful biological control of thrips, mealybugs and spider mites

"While horticulture and agriculture are very different, our approach remains the same: we work to understand growers' challenges and provide them with solutions," says Jenette Douma, product manager at Koppert. "Testing plays an important role in our approach. we test our solutions in demo fields, then we partner with growers to apply our products in their fields. The results are convincing. Consequently, we are continuing to expand our portfolio of natural enemies for agricultural use."

In Spain and the Netherlands, growers are using predatory bugs to control thrips in leeks and onions. "Their experience has been very positive," says Jenette. "Therefore, we have extended our trials to Germany." In Spain, France, and Italy, growers have successfully used the Cryptobug predatory beetle and Citripar parasitic wasp for the control of mealybugs in grapes and citrus and the Spical Ulti-Mite predatory mite for the control of spider mites in tomatoes. Jenette: "Italy has large-scale productions for processing tomatoes. To simplify the application of predatory mites in these tomato fields, we have updated our packaging. The new containers are larger and compatible with drones."

Research and development

The testing and development of several other solutions is still ongoing. "We have developed a new and more cost-effective way to produce and package a type of beetle, a natural enemy of armoured scales in citrus. The result is a product that is both affordable and easy to use," explains Jenette. "Our next step is to conduct trials in other crops, such as grapes in Italy, France and Spain. We are also exploring new application methods for predatory mites against spider mites in potatoes, and we are working on solutions against aphids in, for example, apple trees."

In partnership

Koppert offers advice and support from storage to application for growers transitioning to biological crop protection. This includes a review of the grower's Integrated Pest Management system and the presence of chemical pesticides that may be harmful to natural enemies. By engaging with growers, Koppert aims to offer even more natural alternatives in the future. Jenette: "We do this in partnership with our subsidiaries, who have close relationships with growers. We are also connecting with partners in the value chain. Authorities are increasingly banning the use of chemical products in agriculture, which presents numerous challenges for growers. We want to be part of the solution."