BOTOTÁ, Colombia: “Climate change is a reality,” says Augusto Solano, President of industry body Asocolflores. “We are seeing more severe droughts, frost and weather extremes.”
Climate change further translates into pests and disease outbreaks that are more difficult to manage and lead to higher production costs. Solano: “But if two words were used to define our industry, they would be ‘resilient’ and ‘innovative’.
As such, Colombian flower growers have joined local institutions in developing a weather alert system that sends out alarms when the weather forecasts temperatures below zero, allowing for preventive measures to be put in place. “Further, we are highly committed to the water stewardship programme, designed to preserve water by increasing efficiency of use, collecting rainwater, recirculating irrigation systems, caring for water sources and working with entire communities in and around production areas,” adds Ximena Franco, Director of Florverde Sustainable Flowers, the environmental and social standard of the Colombian flower sector and a prominent member of FSI (Floriculture Sustainability Initiative).
Ximena continues by touching on phytosanitary issues which, not only directly impact trade, but also sustainability. Consider the implications of pest interceptions at ports of entry that can lead to fumigation destruction and even restriction of certain flowers, in addition, to the increasingly more stringent certification requirements imposed by importing markets, wanting flowers of perfect quality and completely free of pests.
“Fortunately,” says Ximena, “we go way back when it comes to bio-controls, bio-pesticides and integrated pest management schemes,” to name a few. She recalls bio-control programmes developed decades ago to isolate native strains of Trichoderma that gave much better results than imported strains and which are now commercially available and in use by many growers at present to control aggressive soil fungi such as Fusarium and Rhizoctonia. More recently, very successful work with the predatory mite Amblyseius californicus has proven instrumental in controlling the two-spotted spider mite (Tertranychus urticae) attacking roses. Although obtaining necessary government permits to use these organisms can be a lengthy process in Colombia, once in use these schemes have really helped reduce pesticide use and even led to economic benefits, especially in the mid to long-term.
Picture: Augusto Solano on the right attending the grand opening of the 2019 IPM ESSEN show last month.