In an effort to be more sustainable in its pest control methods, Westfalia Fruit Group is turning to insects over pesticides in a project in Chile to help protect its crops from Mealybugs and White scale.
At its facility near Santiago, they are cultivating beetle predators to limit White scale in avocado and Red Scale in citrus, and another “Mealybug destroyer” for the control of the bugs that infiltrate citrus, avocados and blueberries.
The effort is similar to an approach Westfalia has taken in Colombia, where a shift away from potentially harmless chemicals to eliminate insects has kept orchards safe.
“This season we are targeting 70% of our own farms to be participating in insect release programs, and that increases to 100% for citrus and avocado,” said Juan Enrique Ortuzar, Westfalia’s research and development manager in Chile. “We are developing and testing the program on our commercial farms. When we have proof of concept, we will communicate this initiative with our growers and offer them insects if they would like to join. We have also started training our team so that they can educate and support growers as we roll this out.”
Westfalia says it has a seasonal plan for each of its farms and the release of insects mapped out. In addition to the insects, the company says its teams are using high-pressure spraying of water at packhouses to eliminate any pests. The company is also testing mild plant treatments “using pheromones, a new approach that causes sexual confusion for some pests, increasing control success without disrupting the natural balance of the orchard.”
Ortuzar said, “We live with White scale in the orchard, but we are well below the so-called economic damage threshold. By practicing IPM we deliver a quality product in a very safe and natural way. The whole idea is to reduce chemical treatment to a minimum and we believe we can achieve that with this kind of approach.”
Ultimately, Westfalia hopes it can be a example for others to follow in taking a more environmentally approach to pest remediation.
“Once you start this journey, the more you learn,” Ortuzar said. “We are developing our own ideas and changing procedures based on our growing experience and successes. If our project could serve as a model for Westfalia globally we would be very proud.”