Retailers commit to selling sustainably grown vegetables only, Biobest ready to help growers

A real gamechanger. Dutch retail chain Jumbo concluded an agreement with Greenpeace in 2016. This stipulates that as of 2020 all Dutch potatoes, vegetables and fruits and half of the flowers have to be qualified under the “Milieukeur” standards. Suppliers like the Greenery immediately started preparations. Another large retailer Albert Heijn soon followed suit. For Biobest Netherlands more than enough reasons to dig deep into the requirements of the “Mileukeur”-label. General Manager Bart Sosef: “We get a lot of questions from our customers about how to translate these requirements into daily practice. That is an important part of the tailor-made advice we aim to provide.”

Biobest Netherlands hence invited Niko Moerman, projectleader at SMK, the organisation behind the Milieukeur label, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. On March 16th, Niko explained the Biobest team all the details about Milieukeur and the requirements associated with it. These aren’t only related to crop protection, but also to plant nutrition, water and labour conditions.

Of course the discussion focused quite a bit on crop protection in greenhouse vegetables. Moerman: “The lead principle for Milieukeur is an integrated approach to pest and disease control. Biological or mechanical solutions always come first. Chemical control is only allowed when there are no alternative solutions. We don’t go for ‘IPM light’. We set specific standards in terms of the maximum amount of active ingredients per hectare per year. Another requirement for protected vegetable growers: three important pests have to be controlled with biological products only. The use of certain active ingredients is completely banned: for example glyfosate, glufosinate-ammonium, imidacloprid (exception made for the latter in aubergine where a more environmentally friendly product is not yet available). Other actives are defined as “risky” with a strict limit to the number of authorized applications per crop cycle. Using these products leads to a penalty score that the grower needs to compensate with bonus points in other areas. Bonus points can be obtained with measures such as insect netting or by using biological control for more pests. The Milieukeur stipulates that a grower needs at least 10 bonus points in the crop protection domain.”

Biobest advises and invests in R&D

Bart Sosef sums up Biobest’s role in all this: “We want to make sure to understand the rules in depth. We know they are achievable for ambitious modern growers, and we’ll help our customers put them into practice. We’ll maintain a regular exchange of ideas with SMK.”
But Biobest’s role doesn’t end there. We invest heavily in R&D. So when there are certain challenges for which biological solutions are still missing, we invest in coming up with new strategies or new solutions. That will allow SMK to gradually raise the bar and extend the required scope of biological control.

Herman Van Mellaert, Director Business Development at Biobest comments: ”What’s happening now in the Netherlands is exemplifying an important trend. It highlights an area in which we are rapidly developing our expertise. We aim to actively participate in the dialogue with retailers and certification-organisations like SMK to help them set challenging yet achievable standards for sustainable production. The consumer expects nothing less than that. Then, we are prepared to help our customers grow a successful crop that complies with these requirements. In this way we pledge to make a strong contribution to a ‘conscious agriculture’.”

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