Many South African citrus producers export their produce to various countries in Europe. Endulini Fruit is one such producer. With consumers, and consequently supermarkets, increasingly demanding products free of pesticide residues, the company has decided to use softer pesticides and introduce biological pest control to its orchards. This decision aligns with the European Union’s Directive 2009/128/EC, which aims to reduce the risks and impact of pesticides on human health and the environment.

“Market drivers, European regulations and the impact of pesticides on the environment and biodiversity have urged us to reduce our use of red label pesticides by 90 to 95% and introduce biological pest control for crops,” says Pietie Ferreira, CEO of Endulini Fruit. “We want to protect the environment for future generations. The resistance that many pests have built up to pesticides demonstrates that the exclusive use of hard chemicals is not a long-term solution.”

Biocontrol as a solution

Biological pest control is an environmentally safe alternative to conventional chemical control. Stephen Meeding, technical manager at Endulini Fruit, shares some insight into biocontrol. “Biocontrol involves the use of one or more types of beneficial organisms to reduce the numbers of another type of organism. As a result, Endulini Fruit can deliver a product that’s kinder to the environment and eliminates pesticide residue.”

The use of biocontrol is a continuously growing industry, but the South African industry is in its infancy compared to the rest of the world. The global industry has been established for 30 years and benefits from well-developed mass production systems, quality control programmes, a research sector, specific shipment and release methods, and specialised advice for producers.

Types of biocontrol 

Drawing on this insight and experience, Endulini Fruit has introduced two biocontrol solutions to its farms. The long-term solution of classical biocontrol involves the introduction of natural predators from the pest’s place of origin. Augmentative biocontrol increases populations of the pest’s natural enemies.

Augmentative biocontrol is either inoculative or inundative. The inoculative approach entails introducing a small number of natural predators to greenhouse crops early in the season. These agents then reproduce and feed on the pest, which suppresses pest populations. The inundative approach involves releasing a massive number of commercially reared natural enemies. It is used for rapid pest suppression and when the population of natural enemies is insufficient to control pests.

A third type of biocontrol, namely conservation biocontrol, has not yet been introduced to Endulini Fruit’s farms. This process involves the manipulation of the agricultural environment to preserve and enhance the existing populations of natural enemies. Manipulation includes providing alternative food sources for natural enemies such as nectar, pollen, alternative prey or shelter.

Integrated pest management

The introduction of biological pest control is part of an integrated pest management (IPM) plan to reduce the impact of pesticides on the environment and biodiversity. Biocontrol is the cornerstone of IPM in an ecological strategy that focuses on the long-term prevention of pests. This is achieved through a combination of techniques such as biocontrol, cultural methods andpesticides.

Cultural methods include habitat manipulation, the modification of cultural practices, and the use of resistant varieties. Pesticides are only used when monitoring indicates that it is necessary. Chemicals are then applied in a manner that minimises risks to human health, beneficial and non-target organisms, and the environment.

“Many believe pesticide residues affect human health, but the risk assessment for pesticide residues in food by the Joint FAO/WHO Meeting on Pesticide Residues establishes safe intake levels. Governments use acceptable daily intakes to establish maximum residue limits for pesticides in food. Authorities enforce limits to ensure that the amount of pesticide residues consumers are exposed to through food over a lifetime will not have adverse health effects,” says Meeding.

“Endulini Fruit adheres to these levels when using pesticides to ensure food safety. Our focus is on protecting our environment for future generations.” – Press release, Endulini Fruit

For more information, contact Endulini Fruit on 042 283 0228 or visit www.endulini.co.za.