Start clean, stay clean. This is the essence of the upgraded Greencare policy in use at Dümmen Orange. The increasing disease pressure and globalisation are making this a must. Frank Wagenaar: "We’re taking on a big responsibility, not only for roses as a product category but also for the commercial interests of the Netherlands. We’re doing everything possible to produce clean and healthy rose cuttings."
"If there was ever an obvious reason for developing our Greencare policy, it was what happened in the summer of 2016." Frank Wagenaar, Head of Production the Netherlands, recalls the Ralstonia outbreak at the rose nursery. "We were just starting an acquisition process. Dümmen Orange would be taking over this location run by Olij Rozen. And then this happened. But it was also the time for us to redesign our work procedures so that another outbreak wouldn't stand a chance." They took rigorous measures.
To make sure that 'what starts clean, stays clean', Wagenaar and his colleagues looked at how any bacteria that was present could spread: by means of the plant material itself, the water, and the employees' work clothing and tools. Next, they initiated far-reaching measures to control the phytosanitary risks from breeding through to production. Wagenaar: "If you're involved in breeding and propagating, you have to start off with plant material. We use a closed system whenever possible. This minimises how many plants we bring in from outside. But any plant material we do bring in from outside is kept in quarantine for ten weeks. Under no circumstances may they come into contact with the plants we already have here. Not until three consecutive tests show negative results for diseases and pests may these plants enter our rose pool. Yes, this entire cycle adds another two and a half months, but times have changed due to globalisation and an increased disease pressure. That's when taking responsibility really counts."
Four tests instead of two
Wagenaar: "We also check and double-check the water. For environmental reasons, we recycle our water whenever possible. This means, however, that we have to do a good job of disinfecting it. One way we do this is with UV lamps. But that's not all. To participate in the Naktuinbouw rose pool, Naktuinbouw (The Netherlands Inspection Service for Horticulture) has to check our water twice a year. But we have this done not two but four times a year. We rely on these tests to know straightaway if there are any deviations in our water samples. If so, we want to know at once."
Employees no longer use their own secateurs
The third possible source of disease - clothing and tools - is the one that affects employees most. Every division - breeding, propagation, production and the show greenhouse - now has its own work clothing in its own colour. A commercial laundry collects the clothing twice a week. Previously, everyone had their own secateurs; now, each path has its own secateur that may only be used there. Joost Mohlmann, Manager: "This has a lot of implications! A., it takes more time, and B., nobody has their own secateurs and gloves anymore. Before this, everyone thought it was very important to have their own secateurs." Now, employees working in breeding who wear a blue sweater can't simply walk into the 'black' propagation greenhouse. This means that they sometimes have to take the long way round. Mohlmann: "It took some getting used to, but people understand why. Everyone realises that this is the new reality. And everyone would hate for anything to go wrong. Looking on at the flowers you've grown with such care being cleared out of their greenhouse: it’s not something we like to about."
Serving a great public interest
In the autumn of 2017, The Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) declared the newly acquired rose nursery free of disease. Wagenaar: "But we deliberately took more time to standardise the process. We were already confident about the cuttings we were delivering. After all, we test every single plant. Yet now, two years after acquiring this rose nursery, we also feel confident about the process." All of these efforts are serving a great public interest. Wagenaar emphasises that they are doing this for "our customers, roses as a product category, the commercial interests of the Netherlands and even for the world. Our cuttings are sent to places throughout the world. And with great confidence we’re doing a good job." And: "This strict policy has been conventional practice for years in fruit and vegetable production. Something you'd expect for food. For roses, however, it's still unique. We think it will become standard."
Greencare in a nutshell
Greencare is the phytosanitary policy Dümmen Orange implements to deliver healthy and clean starting material to growers worldwide. It guides us to prevent, control and minimise phytosanitary risks from breeding all the way through to production, by means of:
- far-reaching hygiene measures, such as separate work clothing and tools for each phytosanitary location
- checking and double-checking, by means of periodic lab tests and controlled quarantine locations
- close cooperation, with the research department and partners worldwide for the purposes of research, knowledge-sharing and clear communication during crises
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