Long-time Biobest customer Paul Zwinkels, tomato grower says: “If biological products disappear, I’ll quit my business today”

Biology has become indispensable in the greenhouse industry. It is perhaps the biggest change in the 30-year existence of Biobest, thinks Paul Zwinkels. Together with his brother René, he owns a 4.5-hectare vine tomato nursery in Wateringen, the Netherlands. He has been a loyal customer of Biobest for 25 years now. The anniversary is an occasion for him to look both back and forward. “It’s important that Biobest continues to invest in the development of new biological control agents and products.”

Zwinkels is busy hanging yellow sticky rolls as we interview him. “Whiteflies has been a problem in tomato cultivation all my life. When I was 12 years old, I helped my father to get out the hose and spray against whitefly. Now I’m 60 and hanging sticky rolls at infection sites. That just shows what an annoying pest this is.”

A good balance
The pest is the same, but the solution is different. Sticky rolls instead of chemistry – this shows how much things have changed in the greenhouse. “We soon got fed up with spraying. In the eighties, biological control agents arrived on the scene. We quickly started using them. Now we fight against whitefly, leafminer and caterpillars using beneficial insects, sticky rolls, sticky traps and products of biological source. It fits our commitment of sustainable cultivation and high-quality products. That’s why we also grow vine tomatoes for the middle segment of the market with an average fruit weight of 100 grams. We maintain a good balance between quality and production.”

The people behind the biology
Biobest has always been their partner for the biological control of diseases and pests. When the brothers took over their father's company in 1994, they were already customers of fertiliser supplier Jan van der Valk who sold beneficial insects from Biobest. And they remained loyal to the Belgian company after the takeover by Nic.Sosef and the start of Biobest Netherlands. “Biology’s not about price, but about the people behind it. The approach taken can make the difference. We have a deal with Biobest’s technical advisor Arjo van Lenteren that he comes over for regular checks. Then we review the introduction schemes and see if additional biological control is necessary. Timely identification of pests is very important. The sooner we spot them, the easier they are to correct.”

Higher infection pressure
Beneficial insects and products of natural source will become increasingly important in the future, thinks the tomato grower. “If biological products disappear tomorrow, I’ll quit my business today. The infection pressure is, in fact, rising. This is partly because more growers are using year-round artificial lighting, but also because of new foreign pests and milder winters. More and more chemical products are also disappearing. That’s why it’s important that Biobest continues to invest in research and development. Authorities should for their part make the approval of beneficial insects and biological products easier. This is essential for our sector.”

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