Ornamental growers in Denmark have been among the first ornamental growers to embrace biological plant protection, with many already having 10 to 20 years of experience. The country is driven by a green ideology, and both the industry and the government is driving this green transition. Growers are aware of the advantages, and continuous research and tests are being conducted to improve and find new biological plant protection solutions and products. This is explained by Lars Stubsgaard, a biologist who has been working with biocontrols for 28 years in the Danish company Borregaard BioPlant ApS, which is part of the Biobest group since 2016 and operates in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. Stubsgaard is the product manager and tests new products and advises growers on biocontrols.
Like 'Økologihaven ApS' (in the picture), most Scandinavian herb growers have a 'zero pesticide' policy. This has been a challenge but taught us how to control pests and diseases using biocontrol products only, Lars Stubsgaard explains.
Biocontrol in ornamentals - How it all started
According to Stubsgaard, biocontrol was, for the first time, taken into ornamentals in the late 80s by Steen Borregaard, the founder of Borregaard BioPlant. "Before, it was only used for the production of vegetables, where growers only had the choice between 4 to 5 biological beneficial insects. Then, we decided to take it into ornamentals. The Danish ornamental growers were probably the first, even before the Dutch growers started using it."
You may wonder why the Danish ornamental growers wanted to use it, as it was more expensive and, at that time, less effective than pesticides. "As working conditions became more in the spotlight, increasingly more employees did not want to spray with pesticides anymore. So, in order to keep these good workers, a shift, or partial shift, to the use of biocontrol was needed. Then, the growers quickly saw the benefits in their crop as the plants did not develop resistance to a particular pesticide. So when spraying a pesticide, it will be more effective."
Partial use in ornamental production
Nearly all Danish ornamental growers are now using biological plant protection in part of the production process as using it in the whole process often would be too expensive explains Stubsgaard. "It is often used in the propagation area. The plants are then tightly spaced, and they often use beneficial insects and biofungicides here. In this way, the crops will enter the finished plants production area as a 'clean' plant without having developed any resistance to any pesticide."
More ornamental growers to use biocontrol
Over the years, many biological plant protection products entered the market, and according to Stubsgaard, many more will follow in the future, keeping Biobest busy. "In Denmark, but also in Norway and Sweden, we see that increasingly more pesticides are being banned, forcing ornamental growers to search for alternatives. And on top of that, over the last years, growers have become bigger and bigger and have been applying for certificates like GlobalGAP, which also have strict rules regarding the use of pesticides."
According to Stubsgaard, growers that are first now turning toward biocontrol will have to learn to think more prophylactically than what they were used to with pesticides. "They will need to introduce beneficials prophylactically, monitor pest development carefully in the crop and act accordingly before pests develop in large numbers. Otherwise, the balance will be tilted, and it will be difficult to avoid plant damage and losses."
Busy for Borregaard BioPlant ApS
Besides supporting ornamental and vegetable growers, Borregaard BioPlant ApS also support most Scandinavian herb and cannabis growers, which have increased over the last years. These are very challenging crops when it comes to biological crop protection. "The popularity and, therefore, production of herbs started around 2005 and has grown significantly. Most of the Scandinavian herb growers have a 'zero pesticide' policy, and as there are so many different herbs varieties, different crop protection products and methods are required. And the last couple of years, we are also busy with supporting medical cannabis growers. Denmark was the first country that legalized the production of medical cannabis on a large scale. And for the production of this crop, no pesticides at all can be used. The rules are even stricter than for herbs and vegetables; even soaps or oils, like in Canada, are not allowed. All these developments taught us how to control pests and diseases using biocontrol products only."
Biobest assortment expanding
Due to the developments over the last years and the global trend towards less use of pesticides, Biobest expanded and is still expanding their assortment with biological crop protection products. "Besides the natural choice like beneficial insects, Biopesticides are an important part of our toolbox in Scandinavia. This could be biofungicides containing spores of beneficial microorganisms, like Trichoderma asperellum in the new popular product Asperello®. Asperello is used against soil pathogens like Fusarium; our experience is that Fusarium will be a challenge for growers in the future now that we have fewer fungicides available, Lars Stubsgaard explains."
At the Greentech in Amsterdam, from June 13-15, Biobest will announce new digital tools that will help growers monitor pest development in greenhouse crops.