We are still learning every day

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Wednesday 22 May, is Biodiversity Day. Biodiversity is important because in an environment with a rich diversity of plants, animals, and microorganisms, diseases and pests are less likely to occur. We spoke to Nico Reijm (pictured) and Eric van Heijningen of HilverdaFlorist. This company, together with fellow companies, is taking part in a pilot project in Greenport Aalsmeer to promote biodiversity outside the greenhouse.

HilverdaFlorist is based in De Kwakel and focuses on breeding and propagating cut flowers and pot and garden plants. Nico is the production manager there, while Eric works as the cultivation manager of Cultivation & Quality.

Making field edges more attractive to bees and other insects
“We have been working for a long time to restore the natural balance inside the greenhouse, but in this pilot, we are also doing it outside “, Nico explains. “The project is still in its early stages, but we are fully engaged in planting field edges around several farms in the area with more color, and plants that attract bees and other insects. The aim is to achieve a biological balance between pest insects and their natural enemies so that pests do not gain the upper hand. In practice, there are numerous possibilities for this, depending on the insect. Nice results have already been achieved with thrips and whitefly, but aphids remain a problem. Against lice, for instance, we use ichneumon wasps as natural enemies. Besides promoting biodiversity, planting field edges with bright flowers also contributes to the appearance of the environment.”

Achieving the natural balance is not yet easy. “Attracting natural controls requires very different vegetation than we are used to. We are now working out what works best. We are still learning every day. It would be nice to ask us again in autumn next year about our experiences!”

Increasing demand from customers
“Controlling pests is quite a challenge for many growers, as chemical agents are increasingly on the wane,” says Eric. “The need to go on the biological tour is getting stronger, and interest in this has really taken off in recent years. We are also clearly noticing more demand from customers because they themselves work with biology. So if we use chemistry, it affects them. We, therefore, make sure we deliver the plants ‘clean’, which they can build on.”

The pilot in which HilverdaFlorist is participating is an initiative of Greenport Aalsmeer and six companies together, he continues. “Greenport helps us, for example, with subsidy possibilities and coordination with municipalities and water authorities. Consultation with municipalities is also needed, for example regarding the mowing policy of grass edges. Greenport Aalsmeer actually acts as a spider in the web.”

‘We hope for a snowball effect’
Do Nico and Eric have any tips for companies that also want to do more about biodiversity outside the greenhouse? “Try to tackle it area-wide, for example with neighboring companies. Together you have a better chance of success. Of course, we also hope that more and more companies will join Greenport Aalsmeer and that we will achieve that snowball effect, despite the fact that we are still developing this project ourselves. We too are still searching and it is far from crystallized. But it starts with creating support, which is the most important thing. The great thing is that we notice that more and more companies are sympathetic to initiatives like this.”

For more information:
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