Empacadores Unidos, a leading tomato and sweet pepper producer in Central Argentina, has reported record yields following the introduction of a bespoke Biobest pollination and biological control programme.
Producing 15ha of tomatoes and 8ha of sweet peppers, Empacadores Unidos has worked with Biobest for the past decade - leading the way in the adoption of biological control and bumblebees for pollination in Argentina.
“In 2021 we exceeded our production record, harvesting more than 1,500 boxes (15,000kg) of fruit daily over a two-week period,” says business owner and grower Livio Simon. “While we’ve never had yields this high, the fruit size, weight and colour has been spectacular.”
According to technical advisor Alberto Lezzi; “the whitefly is well controlled with Biobest’s Swirskii-System - with the Amblyseius swirskii mites outnumbering the whitefly at the edges of the crop. The beneficials have established really well in the crops. As well as swirskii, the predatory bug Orius insidiosus (Orius-System) can easily be found in the flowers. Where you don’t see these predators, you find the parasitic wasp Eretmocerus-System (Eretmocerus eremicus) - helping to keep whitefly well controlled.”
“Overall, the whitefly control in the crop is really impressive,” says Livio. “As a result, we’re noticing much lower levels of Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus (TSWV). Thrips are all but absent in some greenhouses, while in others there are just one or two in occasional flowers.”
Powdery mildew number one challenge
According to Livio, his number one pest and disease challenge is now the fungal disease pathogen Leveilula Taurica - causing powdery mildew. “We applied an azoxystrobin systemic fungicide through our irrigation system, but it didn’t work as well as previous years,” he says. “We therefore resorted to a fungicide containing difenoconazole plus pydiflumetofen. Applied without oil, to minimise interference to the beneficials, it has worked well.”
“The Biobest hives, containing our native bumblebee Bombus atratus, have delivered exceptional results in the tomato crops,” says Livio. “We’ve had one hundred percent marked flowers and setting – reflected in the high yields.”
“The quality is exceptional – the fruit are an ideal size and firmness. We’re delighted with the yields and the prices have also been good - to-date the results have been really impressive.”
“During the challenging hot and dry summer conditions, Tuta absoluta and spider mite (Tetranychus spp.) can attack,” he says. “We’ll continue to work closely with Alberto and Biobest to meet these challenges head on.”
Growers need to check with their local authority which bumblebee, beneficial insect and mite species are registered for use in their region.