Posted on

Hive types and timing crucial to optimise blueberry yields

Hive types and timing crucial to optimise blueberry yields

Bumblebees are an essential component of UK blueberry production. By introducing the correct hive types at the right time, pollination rates can be optimised resulting in higher yields and ultimately profits.

Early season pollinators

“By early March some crops on the South Coast of England started flowering, while crops North of the border in Scotland are still some way off,” says Tim Crittenden, Biobest UK’s Technical Sales Manager. “Early in the season, natural pollinators are few and far between. Coupled with the fact most UK blueberries are grown in enclosed polythene tunnels, means growers must introduce bumblebees to pollinate crops.”

Narrow pollination window

Blueberry crops have a narrow pollination window. While individual flowers must be pollinated within 4-5 days of opening, each bush has a pollination window of just 4-6 weeks.

Tim recommends growers monitor their crops carefully and introduce Biobest Standard Hives when 5% of flowers have opened.

“With a life span of 6-8 weeks, Standard Hives cover the entire pollination window,” he explains. “Then, when 20% of flowers have opened, we recommend also introducing Biobest’s Turbo Hives.

“More mature, each Turbo Hive contains over 200 workers and – as the name suggests – immediately gets to work boosting pollination rates during the peak pollination period. Turbo Hives have a slightly shorter lifespan of 4-6 weeks.

“If the bumblebees start biting the petals, that is a good indication the numbers are just above the optimum threshold.”

Dual hive strategy

“Implementing this dual hive strategy correctly pays dividends,” says Tim. “Good pollination leads to larger fruit with a higher seed count.

“The strategy relies on introducing the right number of hives at the correct time. Unique to each situation, it depends on a range of factors including geographical location, crop area, type of production system and age of the blueberry bushes. Biobest advisors are on hand to advise growers.”


Posted on

Promising start to IPM programme in Dominican Republic peppers

Promising start to IPM programme in Dominican Republic peppers

A trial to introduce a full IPM programme to a sweet pepper crop in the Caribbean is showing promising results, reports Luis Espinoza, Biobest Manager for Latin American countries.

“Sweet peppers are an important crop for the Dominican Republic (DR),” he explains.  “As well as being a key ingredient of Caribbean cooking, the peppers are a valuable export crop to the US.

“Grown in plastic greenhouses and net houses, thrips are a major pest challenge – particularly as they act as vectors for plant viruses, such as Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus. While the thrips adults lay their eggs under the leaf surface, the pest pupae and larvae tend to hide inside flowers making them difficult to target with synthetic chemical sprays.”

Growers in the DR have traditionally resorted to broad spectrum chemical pesticides to control thrips. However, pesticide resistance is building in the pest population making products less effective. Although crop protection regulations are not as strict as in North America, to access this important export market growers have to adhere to US regulatory standards. Growers are therefore coming under growing pressure to find an alternative solution.

To explore the potential of a fully integrated pest management strategy, Biobest’s local distributor – Nonno’s Bio Shop – recently set up a 1-hectare trial, in a newly planted pepper crop in the San Jose de Ocoa province. 

“The crop was planted in mid-January and three weeks later the IPM programme began,” says Luis. “The grower was advised to hang yellow and blue sticky traps above the crop to monitor the population of thrips, and other flying pests such as whitefly and aphid.

 “Following crop scouting, Phytoseiulus-System was released into red spider mite hot spots. Swirskii-System was introduced to control broad mite hot spots as well as thrips, with the predatory quickly building up feeding on the pest larvae. To strengthen the strategy, Orius-System was also introduced to control the last larval stage as well as the adults.

“While some growers in the DR already have experience of using Orius-System, this is the first time to our knowledge that a full IPM programme has been successfully implemented.  Although still very much early days, initial observations are looking promising and this grower is keen to roll the strategy out further in his pepper crops.” 

For more information, please contact Lise Verachtert (

Posted on

Supplementary feeding of predatory mites with pollen yields exceptional results

Supplementary feeding of predatory mites with pollen yields exceptional results, Erik Boers, Source: Decorum (
Erik Boers, Source: Decorum (



Amaryllis grower Erik Boers wants to keep his crop healthy, preferably using biological crop protection. This year he made a single introduction of predatory mites to control thrips and then developed the population using Nutrimite™. He is enthusiastic about the initial results. Meanwhile the mice, which loved the bran component of his previous control strategy, have been outmanoeuvred.

At Erik Boers’ company, thrips are a regular uninvited guest. Erik grows both amaryllis bulbs and flowers on 6.5 hectares. The bulbs, which are grown in open soil, are sold for dry sales while the flowers, cultivated on clay pellets, are marketed during the winter season.

Erik is a member of the Decorum grower cooperative, which sells a fully sustainable range of flowers and plants. With all members Global- or MPS-Gap-certified at the minimum, biological crop protection fits well with the cooperative’s profile.

Closed leaf bud

Fighting disease in Amaryllis is not simple. After the flowers are harvested, the leaves appear. However, the leaf buds are initially so tightly closed that it is difficult to effectively spray them, let alone comprehensively scout for pests and beneficial insects.

“These challenges are further compounded by the fact the crop remains in the ground for three years,” explains Erik. “After harvesting the soil is steamed, parcel by parcel, so we are never able to clean the greenhouse completely – or apply optimum hygiene measures.”

Working with a Biobest competitor, three years ago Erik’s first attempted to control thrips using Amblyseius swirskii and introduced cultivation sachets several times. The sachets were filled with predatory mites, bran and factitious prey. “What we hadn’t counted on were the mice,” says Erik. “During the summer months they were attracted by the smell of the bran – I even saw them running around with sachets in their mouths! It was not a satisfactory solution, to say the least.”

Offering food

This year Eric decided to try a different biological pest control strategy in a newly replanted section of the glasshouse. He chose the Biobest strategy – featuring a combination of Swirskii-Breeding-System and Nutrimite™ – a system avoiding the need to continually reintroduce sachets. Crop Protection Specialist, Marvin Koot, advised Eric to introduce Swirskii-Breeding-System just once in early spring to develop a population of predatory mites for the entire cultivation year.

“Immediately after the flower harvest, there were insufficient thrips in the greenhouse to sustain the predatory mites,” says Marvin. “It was therefore necessary to provide the mites with sufficient food to sustain them. Our feed supplement Nutrimite™, based on specially selected pollen, has proved ideal.”

Since introducing the predatory mites, every fourteen days the team has manually blown in the pollen. “You can barely see it, but it does work,” says Erik. “In fact, it worked exceptionally well.”

Later on during the growing period, just to be sure, he introduced some loose predatory mites in one variety. While occasionally he still sees a few thrips, the pest is now well under control. “When it comes to thrips control, this ‘test’ has been a success,” says Erik. “Although it would be helpful to automate the dispersion process to simplify application.”

Cooling period

Prior to flowering, the crop is cooled and the leaves removed. At this point, both the thrips and predatory mites disappear. In theory, the predatory mites could survive this period, as they can tolerate temperatures as low as 13°C. However, before the start of flowering, growers traditionally spray against other pests which means new predatory mites need to be introduced in spring.

“As things stand, you can’t rely solely on biological crop protection,” explains Erik. “You have to occasionally take action against mealybug, narcissus mite, cicadas and caterpillars – however, we are tending more and more to go biological.”

Unique combination

Eric chose Biobest as its partner because of the unique combination of predatory mites and supplementation with pollen – a combination other suppliers do not offer. Supplementation with factitious prey does not appeal to him, because the carrier falls into the heart of the plant and bulb and can rot.

Erik is also pleased with the advice he receives from Biobest with Marvin paying regular visits every fourteen days to discuss and adjust the strategy as necessary.

“We are seeing growing interest in this strategy,” says Marvin. “This year we have added several new customers growing Amaryllis.”

Posted on

Biobest acquires Norwegian growers

Biobest acquires Norwegian growers


Belgian organic specialist Biobest Group and VekstMiljø AS have acquired a majority stake in Norway’s Pollinering AS. Pollinering AS, founded in 2003, is a local Norwegian producer of bumblebee hives for pollination. The move comes shortly after Norwegian authorities banned the importing of commercial bumblebees to protect locally produced hives. This led to VekstMiljø and Biobest merging with Pollinering to strengthen the local production base in order to serve the needs of fruit and vegetable growers. 

Berge Sandanger, managing director of VekstMiljø said that by partnering with Pollinering, the firm is now able “to bring this value-added combined offering to our customers in Norway where relying on bumblebee imports is no longer an option.”

Steen Borregaard, CEO of Borregaard Bioplant added, “For the Norwegian market, we are eager to leverage our intense collaboration with VekstMiljø with access to locally produced bumblebees. This joint investment in a local production company gives us this possibility. Pollinering’s products are already well known to local growers. Thanks to direct access to the expertise of Biobest, a world leader in bumblebee production, we will be able to accelerate the progress of Pollinering and contribute to the competitiveness of local horticultural production in Norway.”


Posted on

Biological control, beyond the point of no return

Biological control, beyond the point of no return

Future trends in biological control − as well as potential opportunities and obstacles, including constraints surrounding the development of novel bio-pesticides − proved a popular session at the recent IUPAC2019 Conference. The joint lunch meeting was hosted by Biobest*, pioneers and global leaders in biocontrol, together with the project leaders** of SMARTBIOCONTROL – an InterregV-portfolio of projects seeking to identify novel bio-pesticides to fight crop diseases. 

Setting the scene, Biobest’s R&D Director Felix Wäckers gave a brief history of biocontrol for high value crops, covering monitoring, beneficial insects and biopesticides.  Stressing the importance of monitoring and prevention in successful IPM programmes, he focused on the need to establish biocontrol agents preventatively, for example using specific food supplements to build up a standing army ready to defend a crop should pests and diseases arrive. Turning to biopesticides, Biobest Project Manager for Microbials Sarah Van Beneden explained how to bring a microbial biopesticide from the laboratory to the field. She stressed out the importance not to overlook parameters influencing efficacy, and the need of guiding and educating growers.

Turning to constraints in the development of novel biopesticides, Phillippe Jacques from ULiège-Gembloux Agro-Biotech presented the SMARTBIOCONTROL initiative and their current portfolio of projects. Gathering together a large panel of experts, in the cross-boundary region of Belgium and France, SMARTBIOCONTROL has set out to develop new biological products to fight crop diseases.

The aim of the lunch session was to exchange opinions, information, advice, and knowledge between stakeholders. Delegates considered a number of questions and a healthy discussion ensued.   

How to continue the growth of biocontrol? 

While it was felt that confidence in the biocontrol market will continue growing, education and guidance of growers will remain very important. Different parties need to play a role, among them biocontrol companies, research stations, consultants and universities.

On the subject of collaboration, which is crucial to innovation, it was felt it was needed between companies, between companies and universities as well as between chemical companies and biocontrol companies. 

As IPM requires a holistic approach, there is not one solution. Regulation was identified as a major bottleneck when working towards producing a complete toolbox of biological solutions to comply with the need of growers. 

*Felix Wäckers (R&D director), Sarah Van Beneden (Product Manager Microbials), Soraya França (R&D teamleader Microbials) and Rob Moerkens (R&D teamleader Greenlab).

**Philippe Jacques (ULiège-Gembloux Agro-BioTech, project BIOCOMGEST), François Krier (ULille, project BIOPROD), Jenny Neukermans (PCG, project BIOPROTECT), Sylvain Desprez (Materia Nova, project BIOSENS), Essaïd Ait Barka (UReims, project BIOSCREEN).

For more information, please contact Lise Verachtert (

Posted on

PreFeRal® WG extra weapon against whitefly

PreFeRal® WG extra weapon against whitefly

During spring tomato growers see whitefly infestation pressure increase slowly, but surely. At this time of year, predatory mirid bugs – such as Macrolophus pygmaeus – are often not yet at full strength. However, Biobest’s biological insecticide PreFeRal® is a valuable addition to the control strategy.

“Containing spores of the Isaria fumosorosea fungus, PreFeRal® works best at high relative humidity,” explains Biobest Advisor, Stefan Bohté. “That is why it is important to choose the right moment to apply the product – for example, at the end of the day.” At sufficiently high humidity, the spores germinate well and the fungus infects various lifecycle stages of the whitefly, killing it.

Local treatments or full field applications
PreFeRal® controls various whitefly types including greenhouse whitefly (Trialeurodes vaporariorum) and tobacco whitefly (Bemisia tabaci).  “In recent years, we have seen pest levels in tomato crops increase,” warns Stefan. “Once the greenhouse whitefly is under control, Bemisia populations can increase again. This whitefly can transmit many harmful viruses.

“Growers who applied PreFeRal® several times last year noticed that it worked well against Bemisia. Meanwhile the biology in the greenhouse remains intact, because it is a biological insecticide. Growers have the option to apply it locally, or to the entire greenhouse, depending on the infestation level.”


Posted on

Producer of sticky traps BKS A.S. becomes part of Biobest Group

Producer of sticky traps BKS A.S. becomes part of Biobest Group

Biobest Group NV of Belgium, IVOG Gmbh of Germany, BKS A.S. and Antilsan A.S. of Turkey, jointly announced a transaction, which further strengthens the position of Biobest Group with regard to sticky traps, sticky rolls and pheromones. BKS A.S., based in Antalya, manufactures sticky traps and rolls and distributes pheromones both in Turkey and in the global market. The majority stake in the company held by Antilsan A.S. was acquired today by IVOG Gmbh, an affiliate of Biobest Group based in Germany involved in manufacturing of sticky traps and rolls.

Jean-Marc Vandoorne, CEO of Biobest Group says: ”Sticky traps and rolls are important tools in Integrated Pest Management, offering growers solutions to monitor pests and to actively reduce pest pressure. With this transaction, our group strengthens its position as a leading manufacturer of these products, allowing us to serve the needs of growers operating in different crops and different countries. There is strong complementarity between the capabilities of IVOG and the capabilities of BKS. The synergy between both companies will help us build global leadership in this important product segment. Antilsan has been our partner in the Turkish market since 1998, this acquisition from Antilsan shows our mutual commitment to a successful, long term collaboration.”

Joachim Schneider, General Manager of IVOG: ”I am excited about IVOG’s investment in BKS. The global market for our products is growing rapidly. With our combined capabilities, we are ideally positioned to supply competitive high-quality products that suit every growers needs. I look forward to a close collaboration with Şahin Biçen, founder and General Manager of BKS. The synergies between our two operations not only relate to manufacturing capabilities and logistic advantages of each location, I expect a lot also from synergies between our innovation programs.”

Şahin Biçen, General Manager of BKS: ”BKS is a young company that has experienced extremely fast growth. Working together with IVOG and as part of the Biobest Group, we now gain access to a very strong global distribution network that will complement our direct sales efforts. This will help us stay on a steep growth curve. I am grateful to Antilsan for their support in building this company. I will now work together as a partner with IVOG and Biobest. I am confident that BKS will flourish because of our enhanced capacity to deliver value to growers worldwide.”

Mehmet Ali Yildirim, General Manager of Antilsan commented: ”We have been excited to be part of the development of BKS over the last few years. With Biobest taking over as a partner in BKS, we know the company will have a strong future. BKS has a very competitive product range. We will continue to distribute these products in the Turkish market as before. The long-standing collaboration with Biobest as partners in Biobest Antalya has allowed us to jointly achieve the number one position in the Turkish market for bumblebees and IPM solutions. Today’s agreement again demonstrates the strength and dynamism of our partnership.”

Producer of sticky traps BKS A.S. becomes part of Biobest Group

Biobest, headquartered in Belgium, is a leading player in pollination and biological control that first introduced commercially reared bumblebees to the market 31 years ago. The company has a distribution network that reaches growers in over 60 countries on five continents. Through its subsidiaries, the company has production sites, sales and technical support staff strategically located across the globe for effective worldwide service. Biobest distributors in many countries are key partners with whom the company works very closely to help customers achieve their economic and ecological goals.

Posted on

Addressing residue-free berries at the Global Berry Congress

Speaking at the recent Global Berry Congress 2018 in Rotterdam, Julien Mourrut-Salesse – Biobest’s Head of IPM and Pollination Specialists – highlighted a range of solutions to help address growing consumer demand for residue-free berries.

Held in March, this world-class event brought together leading berry growers from around the world providing an opportunity to learn, network and create new business opportunities. Julien Mourrut- Salesse was one of 40 expert speakers chosen to assess key challenges and help delegates understand the future for the industry.

“The residue-free concept challenges growers to rethink agrochemical practices,” he said. “They need to think outside the box and it requires strong knowledge of pesticide use and residues. Residue-free can mean the adoption of new technologies, the need to adapt cultural practices and generally requires improved monitoring to boost IPM use. As a result it often leads to a healthier crop and therefore a possible increased yield.”

Supporting residue-free projects in several countries, he explained that Biobest has a dedicated team helping growers meet this target with monitoring tools, a broad range of beneficial insects and mites, entomopathogenic nematodes, microbials and bumblebees as well as a stream of other innovations.

While responding to the growing challenge of the widespread strawberry pest Drosophila suzukii, he highlighted Biobest’s Droso trap and Dros’attract – which are setting the standard for detection of this pest. Many external trials proved that the combination of Biobest’s trap and attractant is the best combination available on the market.

Other products in the spotlight: Biobest’s feed supplement NutrimiteTM, which facilitates earlier predator establishment in the crop, and the patented Flying Doctors® System for the precision delivery of the biofungicide Prestop® 4B to strawberry plants.

Summing up he said; “Consumer demand for residue-free produce is growing rapidly. To benefit, growers face new challenges and expect new solutions from the crop protection industry. Through its expertise and innovations, Biobest is an ideal partner. Residue free and optimal pollination combined ensure high yields and good returns.”

Posted on

Biobest opens new production facility for biological controllers of aphids


On 24th April, Biobest announced the opening of a new €1.2 million state-of-the-art production facility at Biobest Maroc. The brand new facility covers an area of ​​2000 m2 and is equipped with climate cells. These climate cells are comparable to the concept of ‘vertical farming’. This is part of Biobest’s ongoing strategy to enlarge and improve its worldwide production capacity of organic pesticides against aphids.

The gall midge Aphidoletes aphidimyza is a voracious predator of aphids and plays a crucial role in their successful control. “When aphids begin to develop, the grower must act quickly to keep the plague under control,” said Karel Bolckmans, COO of Biobest. “This investment doubles our Aphidoletes production capacity, and represents a crucial contribution to the worldwide fight against aphids in horticultural crops With our multiple production facilities all over the world, our goal is to reach growers anywhere in the world quickly and our team in Morocco has done an excellent job with the timely and successful building of this new production facility.”

“Growers cannot successfully control aphids with just a single product. That is why we recommend strategies that use an effective combination of different applications,” said Marc Mertens, sales manager at Biobest. For instance, the gall midge Aphidoletes can work in a powerful tandem with different types of parasitic wasps.

Posted on

30 year Biobest celebrations spark a lot of enthusiasm


During the weekend of September 8-10, Biobest celebrated its 30 year anniversary with a series of events in and around its Westerlo headquarters. Jean-Marc Vandoorne, Biobest CEO: “We’ve organized this celebration in honor of all the people who helped build Biobest into a leading global pollination and biocontrol company. Biobest founder Dr. Roland De Jonghe, father of commercial bumblebee rearing, endowed his team with a pioneering spirit. A large number of loyal customers and dedicated co-workers share the merits for a unique story of 30 years uninterrupted growth. Hence, an invitation to these people and their families, to celebrate, was well deserved.” More than 1500 people participated in the celebration weekend, and shared the drive to make Biobest even stronger to keep advancing towards a more sustainable agriculture.

Biobest’s international distributors gathered for international distributor days in Antwerp on Friday and Saturday. The event combined information exchange with time for networking and leisure activities. The group included a number of representatives from Biobest affiliates in various countries where Biobest has set up direct distribution activities. This group joined the Biobest employees for a huge birthday party in a festive tent, set-up at the site of the Biobest headquarters in Westerlo. Activities continued on Sunday, with an event for customers, employees and their families attended by around 1.000 people. A company tour, with supporting video presentations, a lot of activities for children, and of course, food and drinks were some of the key ingredients of a highly appreciated closing day.

Visitors also had the opportunity to visit the renovated offices. A major renovation had been undertaken to upgrade the Biobest offices, which had been completed just-in-time for the 30 years event.

CEO Jean-Marc Vandoorne: ”Thanks to our continued growth, there is a strong need but also the capability to invest in improved facilities. The new office floor at our headquarters is an important step that will enable us to further enhance our standards of service. We also have an ambitious program laid out for continued investments in our factories in Belgium and abroad. We are confident that this investment program will allow us to deal with a double challenge: keep up with rapidly growing demand and achieve a high standard of reliability of our production systems and supply chain. Our customers are counting on us to provide solutions allowing them to sustainably grow the healthy, high quality product that consumers expect. We are determined to help them succeed”.

 For more information, please contact