The Zuurbier Nursery

"Environmental registration since the start of our business"

Kwekerij Zuurbier (Zuurbier Nursery) from Heerhugowaard have had a MPS-A environmental certificate for years. "It’s a very small step to certification."

"You can hang lights and turn on the heating, and carnations will also grow well. But that takes a lot of energy and you never earn it back," says Erik Zuurbier, grower of carnations and peonies. "With us, nature does its work: daylight and the warmth of the sun. We keep a close eye on gas prices. You can't get away with it price-wise. The fact that we work with daylight saves on lighting systems, screens, and electricity. In early spring, we do turn up the heat to have production again around Mother's Day. But in principle, we work with the season. Carnations can withstand that well." Erik knows what he's talking about. At the Zuurbier nursery, they have been doing it this way for years. His father started the company in 1972 and now Erik and his wife Karin own the 1.3-hectare farm. The carnations bloom in the greenhouses; outside, he shares a piece of land with a cousin where they grow four types of peonies.

On an annual basis, Zuurbier Nursery uses approximately 19 m3 of natural gas per m2 for heating and CO2 supply, which means that carnation cultivation is a 'cold' crop. "CO2 released during the combustion of natural gas is distributed in the greenhouse to the carnations, which grow better as a result. The heat that we produce during the day is stored in the heat buffer. We use this to heat greenhouses at night when there is no CO2 demand from the plants, but there is a heat demand. Another sustainable solution," says Erik.

Registering is becoming easier
Registering everything his company consumes was already being done. "For years and years. A small effort to do that through MPS. An additional benefit is that the certificate is listed with webshops. When selling at auction, it doesn't even matter whether you have MPS-A, -B, or -C. For buyers, it's more important than the quality is good, that we are a reliable party, and that the carnations are favorably priced."

The new MPS website took some getting used to, but passing on consumption usually doesn't take much time. "I liked the fact that I could just call if I couldn't work it out. And you noticed that they really did something with my feedback. Registration is becoming easier and easier. I do it in the evening. After a working day, just enter a few details online, once every four weeks the total consumption of water, gas and electricity, click on agree and it's done. We also separate all waste streams at our business and for the past few years have had our own composting site for composting our green waste."

Expensive pesticides
MPS-ABC are more than just a certificate. It's a monitoring tool that allows companies to turn the right knobs in order to reduce their environmental impact. Registering consumption measures how sustainably a company produces. This leads to a more conscious use of resources and growers can use the data to make their business more sustainable.

Erik is also very conscious of the use of pesticides, although that also has to do with the price tag. "The floriculture industry is often criticized for using so many pesticides. But that's really nonsense. That stuff is so expensive, you can't just do it. For five liters of Azatin to combat thrips, you pay 580 euros. So you really use that as a last resort. You are not going to squander thousands of euros for fun. What we do is control spider mites with biological agents such as predatory mites. That works well, but it remains a challenge as to how to keep everything in check without chemicals. We've also done many trials of biological control of thrips, but this is difficult in carnation cultivation. Since we do control spider mites with predatory mites, we, therefore, don't use pesticides to control thrips, which the predatory mites can't handle. These agents often also have a much lower environmental impact and are also safer for people and nature."

Global standard
In the Netherlands and Belgium, there aren't that many carnation growers. 80 or 90% of them have an environmental certificate. In other countries, growers aren't so far advanced and many countries also apply different rules when it comes to sustainability. "In Ethiopia, there is a large party with an environmental certificate, but in Italy and Turkey there are big players who aren't so far advanced. Personally, I think that when it comes to sustainability, they should also check the auction more strictly. Carnations are coming to the Netherlands by plane, some of which can continue to grow. That's fine if Royal FloraHolland pays attention to the environment and wants everyone to have an environmental certificate, but keep an eye on these practices. If it's up to Erik, there will be a global standard for sustainable ornamental plant cultivation. "Even in Belgium, the rules are different. It would help if Europe would take the same line."

For more information:
Royal FloraHolland 

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