Westfalia creates buzz using insects to naturally control orchard pests | Article


The company hopes the use of insects and other natural control methods will contribute to its global goal of improving tree health and minimizing the use of pesticides.

Westfalia Fruit Group has launched a pioneering project in Chile to breed insects to naturally control agricultural pests such as mealybugs and white mealybugs.

As part of a large-scale demonstration program to show that a shift to more sustainable production management is possible, Westfalia Fruit Chile is targeting biological control as the preferred method of crop management. The company hopes the use of insects and other natural control methods will contribute to its global goal of improving tree health and minimizing the use of pesticides.

Westfalia has an insect breeding facility in Pomaire, one of its largest farms, located west of Santiago. Working with specialists, the facility produces beetle predators such as Rhyzobius lophanthae and Coccidophillus citricola for the control of white mealybug in avocado and red mealybug in citrus, as well as Cryptolaemus montrouzieri, known as of “Mealybug destroyer” for the control of scale insects in citrus fruits, avocados and blueberries.

The groundbreaking project is initially deployed on the company’s farms in Chile. “This season we are targeting 70% of our own farms to participate in insect release programs and this increases to 100% for citrus and avocados,” said Juan Enrique Ortuzar, R&D manager for Westfalia in the country.

“We are developing and testing the program on our commercial farms and when we have a proof of concept, we will communicate this initiative to our growers and offer them insects if they wish to participate. We’ve also started training our team so they can educate and support producers as we roll out. »

Over the past year, Westfalia Fruit Chile has developed an insect release plan for each participating farm, with insects reared for each season and fruit grown. On all farms, managers are practicing Integrated Pest Management (IPM) which now includes insect releases and at packing centers a high pressure washer to eradicate the small number of pests that remain.

“We live with, for example, the white cochineal in the orchard but we are well below the so-called economic damage threshold. By practicing IPM, we deliver a quality product in a very safe and natural way,” explained Ortuzar.

To complement the use of insects for natural pest control, the Westfalia Chile team is also testing gentle plant treatments using pheromones, a new approach that causes mating confusion for some pests, increasing the successful control without disturbing the natural balance of the orchard.

The project has been so successful that it has already been extended to Colombia, which faces extreme pest and disease challenges. Westfalia’s Colombian farms had already reduced their pesticide applications thanks to this new program.

“The idea is to minimize chemical processing and we believe we can achieve that with this type of approach,” Ortuzar continued.

“It’s interesting because once you start this journey the more you learn and we develop our own ideas and change procedures based on our growing experience and successes. If our project could serve as a model for Westfalia around the world, we would be very proud.

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