Biological Systems for High-Value Crops

Commercial high value vegetable and fruit growers in Benguet and Mountain Province recently received an introduction to a biological growing system for their crops.

By Tony A. Rodriguez

With the assistance of Filipino vegetable seed and crop care company Allied Botanical Corporation (ABC), Koppert Biological Systems B.V. of the Netherlands—the international market leader in the research, development and production of beneficial insects, biological crop protectors, and natural pollination products—conducted the introduction to 96 attendees at the Gladiola Center of the Benguet State University (BSU) in La Trinidad town.

Natural Protection Against Pests and Diseases

The company’s biological crop protection system uses beneficial organisms and natural pesticides against various pests and diseases. With the use of natural enemies, crops are protected in a natural and sustainable way. The benefits are safety for growers, their workers, the environment, and consumers. Crops are healthy, plant growth is uninhibited, and pests attacking these cannot become resistant to this kind of protection, unlike with chemical pesticides. With its reliable biological systems, Koppert provides growers with a convenient solution for their crop protection issues.

In the program at the BSU, Koppert’s technical manager for Asia-Pacific Cristobal Faberga Castellon, a Spanish national, presented Koppert products now used by commercial growers in Europe, South America, North America, and Asia in what the company calls its NatuGro concept, which focuses on natural soil management using fungi and bacteria to activate nematodes, arthropods, and other soil predators through the trophic or nutritional levels of the soil food chain to make available nutrients and growth-promoting and disease-suppressing compounds, to the plants.

Examples of the products are Trianum G/P, that establishes a fungus root protector (Trichoderma harzianum) from soilborne diseases such as Pythium, Fusarium, Rhizoctonia, Sclerotinia, etc; ProFunda, a product containing amino-acids from plants, natural phosphate, and potassium phosphate that stimulates the activity of soil fungi to produce plant nutrients; and ProParva, made of organic elements like amino-, humic-, fulvic acids and enzymes for root stimulation and soil-borne disease protection.

ProFortum contains kelp, a type of seaweed, herbs, and humic acids for achieving biological balance in the rhizosphere, the area of the substrate in which the plant roots are located, for improving vitality and pest and disease resistance; while ProTerrum is made up of amino-acids and peptides that strengthen plant metabolism and promote better flowering. Two other bio-stimulants are Fortafol with fulvic and humic acid plant nutrients, and LinaFer which contains calcium chelated with amino acids.

Castellon and technical consultant Bart de Graaf, a Dutchman, were the resource persons for the introduction. ABC vicepresident for product development Cris Alibuyog introduced them to the audience after remarks by ABC president Michael Caballes. Well-known since the mid-1980s to farmers in the Cordillera Administrative Region that are its top vegetable, strawberry, and cut-flower producers, ABC, now on its 30th year of existence, is the undisputed leader in the country’s highland veggie seeds market.

Established in 1967 as a family company by Dutch cucumber farmer Jan Koppert, the founder whose name the firm now carries is credited with its first beneficial insect introduction, a predator mite (Phytoseiulus persimilis), after he and his son Peter worked to find a natural enemy of the spider mites infesting his
plants. The chemical pesticides he had been using had begun to seriously affect his health after he developed allergies and severe headaches, although they were becoming ineffective in controlling the pests. A biological alternative to the chemicals was the best answer to the problem. Word about the discovery spread, and other Dutch farmers were soon benefitting from the Kopperts’ biological solution.

Five years later, Koppert introduced a species of wasp, Encarsia formosa, that’s a natural enemy of the whitefly. Other breakthroughs followed. Today, the Dutch company provides a full complement of biological control and natural pollination products to commercial growers and home gardeners alike with its reputation for reliability, innovation, and quality. Its core business involves biological crop protection and natural pollination. Its continuous process of results-driven research and development contributes to the development of sustainable agriculture worldwide with its global network of contacts in 84 countries, 23 subsidiaries in all continents, and modern facilities for the large-scale production of natural insect enemies and pollinators and beneficial microorganisms.

Continuous Innovation

Koppert’s commitment to biological crop protection is such that it does not only produce and sell beneficials but also educates farmers on using its products at the right time and place, and in the correct doses, to be successful. By providing the growers with knowledge and guidance on the use of biological pesticides, their crops and soil can be optimally protected. Top-quality products backed by the advice of experienced specialists achieve that goal.

Koppert’s mission is “to be the most preferred partner in developing and marketing pollination systems and integrated pest management for protected and high-value crops, by being a reliable provider of innovative, effective and top-quality solutions.” It offers natural pest control solutions such as ladybugs, parasitic wasps, predatory bugs and spiders, and nematodes against pests like aphids, fungus gnats, Japanese beetles, grubs, spider mites, and whiteflies, and diseases with biologicals, which may be parasitoids or predators, and microorganisms.

It aims to help growers increase their yields and profits, improve the quality of their crops, and assist them in achieving sustainability in their farming.

An interesting part of the presentation was on high-performance Koppert Natupol bumblebee hives, a more viable alternative to honeybee hives, available to commercial growers who need natural pollinators for their fruiting plants like tomatoes, cucumbers, and strawberries. Pollination is necessary for fruit setting, as good setting is the basic requirement for high-quality fruits and healthy produce. Natural pollination is advantageous
to farmers because it requires no labor for continuous pollination, and it results in better fruit setting and higher quality of produce with better shapes, higher average fruit weight, better taste, and higher vitamin content.

The quality requirements for a bumblebee hive are the egglaying queen, active workers, and their brood of eggs, larvae, and pupae. At delivery to farms, Koppert Natupol bumblebee hives carry those requisites. Insulation is with cotton wool, and every single hive is checked for quality.

An open forum which Castellon and Caballes handled followed the presentation. Caballes informed farmers that ABC will conduct trials and techno-demonstrations of the Koppert products to determine the profitability of their use before these are endorsed to their customers.

“In fact, we have completed trials of a Koppert NatuGro product specifically for use in potato crops,” said the ABC president. “The trials in three potato varieties in Buguias town showed that the use of the Koppert product resulted in more vigorous plants and higher yields of bigger tubers in all three potato varieties.” He added that trials and techno-demos are continuing with selected crops.

Among the attendees who asked questions in the open forum were noted and successful La Trinidad organic salad veggie farmer Pat Acosta and the director of research at BSU and its president’s lady Dr. Araceli Ladilad. De Graaf answered queries about strawberry, on the production of which he is an expert, having been the strawberry associate at Driscoll’s in the United Kingdom (UK).

After obtaining his bachelor’s degree in agronomy and master’s degree in hydroponics cultivation at Spain’s University of Almeria, Castellon did stints with a seed development company and as a technical consultant with Koppert Spain and, later, Koppert UK before becoming the Koppert Asia-Pacific technical manager for China, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Taiwan, and the Philippines.

For more information, visit Allied Botanical Corporation (ABC).

This appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s December 2014 issue.

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