Biobest keeps on pioneering with bumblebees

25 Years ago, Biobest was the first company in the world to develop a commercially viable bumblebee pollination system and bring it to the market. During that 25 year period, lots of other developments and innovations were launched that made Biological Control a proven concept. Now in 2012, it is also first to launch bumblebee hives on the Argentinian market. Biobest and local partner Brometan are leading the pack, again, with the introduction of a new species for commercial growers. Bombus atratus is native to Argentina and promises to be a very efficient pollinator.


In search of a better alternative

Argentina is an important horticultural country in South America with a big produce of tomatoes and other crops. The pollination is traditionally done by hand or with chemicals. This is a very labor-intensive and costly process where chemical pollination also results in inferior quality fruits. It weighs on the budget and withholds growers to invest in bigger surfaces.

The launch of Bombus atratus in Argentina is a big breakthrough. Pablo Raimondo, general manager of Biobest Argentina: “Bumblebees are excellent pollinators for tomatoes and other crops in both protected and the open field. They offer a relatively cheap, reliable and sustainable alternative to manual labor or chemical pollination. Bumblebee pollination offers the grower higher yields and better quality of fruits. But nobody succeeded in breeding a bumblebee species that is indigenous to our region. Until now that is.”

Bombus atratus: a regional favorite

“We worked very hard to get atratus to work for us. First, we had to pick the best indigenous species in the region. A great number of field trials showed atratus to be the number one choice.” says Jan Vermeulen, production director at Biobest. “But it is not an easy bumblebee to produce on a bigger scale. It took all the know-how and experience of the R&D department and production team to get it to breed successfully. But we got it done and now, we are starting with the local production of bumblebee hives to sell on the Argentinian market.”
Felix Wäckers, director R&D at Biobest: “Bombus atratus, a native Argentinian species, is found throughout Latin America, with the exception of Chile. There are other species of Bombus as well, but atratus was found to be a very strong and active bumblebee that fits well into the commercial pollination process.”

“Currently we are also doing tests with Bombus atratus in other crops such as blueberries. The extremely good results here show that Bombus atratus is also an effective pollinator in open field crops. We are also ready to test pollination with atratus in Uruguay and are preparing to start export to surrounding countries.” The availability of local bumblebee hives in such an important export market as Argentina will ensure Biobest’s continued local growth and establishes a basis for further expansion into other biological systems.”


Beneficial partnership

Biobest, a Belgian company with worldwide activities, started the atratus project in 2008, together with local partner Brometan. Pablo Raimondo, general manager of Biobest Argentina: “Brometan is one of the biggest suppliers of pest control products in the whole country. The partnership with Biobest enables the Argentinian company to give full support to local growers and to supply biological products and technical knowledge to people in, Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru and Uruguay. The establishment of Biobest Argentina in 2011 is a further step towards a more ecological way of production in South America, with local production of bumblebees and other beneficial organisms.”


Ecology AND economy

The introduction of bumblebee pollination in the Argentinian market is a new step forward both in terms of sustainability and economic growth for the agriculture of the region.
“Bumblebees are a prime example of how sustainable practices offer economic advantages to growers. They grow more and better quality fruits that they can sell at higher price levels. I hope that this will facilitate the proliferation of other ways of sustainable crop management in Argentina and its neighbors, such as the use of beneficial organisms in pest control.” says Mr Raimondo. “With the atratus project, Biobest has proven to be a very valuable and competent partner for local growers. We will keep building upon this fruitful partnership as this will allow growers to profit from our knowledge in bumblebee pollination and biological pest control. Hence Biobest continues to be one of the biggest drivers worldwide in the field of sustainable crop management.


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