Cooperation between Biorational specialists, Certis Europe, and major fresh produce growers in Spain in their project ‘Growing for the future’ is demonstrating clearly the success of Integrated Crop Management solutions that combine conventional and biorational products. This collaborative initiative is expanding fast and programmes that provide buyers with the high quality produce they require, are now a reality.
Farmers and growers are constantly told that they must produce what the market requires, frequently as prescribed by the supermarkets. Consumers of fresh produce are the most demanding in terms of freshness, good appearance, size and flavour in their fruits and vegetables but they also want residue free healthy crops, produced safely in terms of the environment and the workers.
Fruit and vegetable production is especially important in Spain, accounting for 60% of agricultural production value and almost 50% of the crop protection product market there. Spanish fruit and vegetables exports account for 72% of their total value, mainly going to the major EU supermarkets in Germany, UK, France and Benelux so it is vital that growers provide what the European consumers and supermarkets are demanding of them.
The crop protection industry strives to adapt its offer to support such production and Biorational products (including biopesticides, pheromones, beneficial insects and biostimulants) are providing an important part of the solutions needed by growers. Whilst it may be helpful to have speedy registration of such products, it is of course vital for the sustainability and development of this important sector (now showing a growth rate of around 15% per annum) that the process and testing remains thorough and rigorous, to ensure that products will always be safe and reliable in use.
This requires commitment, time and investment and Certis Europe is leading the way by registering the best Biorational products and supporting growers to develop the most effective programmes that are less dependent on conventional chemistry. Certis has already a wide portfolio of registered Biorational products (in Spain) with the aim of providing solutions to the fresh produce sector. The project ‘Growing for the future’ (G4TF) has now been operational in Spain for several years as a partnership between the major cooperative group, UNICA, and Certis. Together they have developed and implemented Integrated Pest Management (IPM) programmes to provide effective control of pests and diseases in the crops, adapting production to meet the stringent requirements of their customers.
Multi residue analysis conducted during the production campaign of 2016-17 demonstrated the complete absence of chemical active substances in pepper crops produced by one of the cooperatives using the G4TF IPM programmes. In cucumbers, produced by a different cooperative, just one active substance was detected but far below the permitted 30% of Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs) as imposed in Europe. These crop programme solutions, thoroughly tested and adjusted to provide effective control of pests and diseases in the crop, incorporate the use of conventional products where necessary, but have proven to the growers and to supermarket buyers and technicians that output of high quality produce with no residue issues is possible. Crops produced under G4TF programmes give growers a strong competitive advantage in the international marketplace.
As well as expanding its range of Biorational products, Certis is involved in further developments to provide this kind of solution in other aspects of production, such as better ways to manage water and nutrients in the crop. The company has already introduced a special range of fertilisers in conjunction with a fertiliser company and is collaborating with a water management company to explore the feasibility of providing higher yields and quality whilst reducing water usage. Such crop programmes, offering a responsible approach to production, are being used by increasing numbers of growers and will continue to evolve to include more crops, more products and different aspects of production.