November 1, 2013. The introduction of a microscopic mite that devours pests into rose crops in Colombia, one of the largest flower exporters in the world, has improved the productivity of this type of crop.
The creators of this biotechnological advance, called Bichópolis, are Yohana Martínez, an agro-industrial engineer, and Alex Escobar, an agricultural business administrator. This married couple has created a company engaged in the breeding of useful mites for the development of the flower growing industry.
“They are bugs that eat other bugs”, says Martínez to explain in a few words the result of a research started in 2010 in the savanna of Bogotá, a plain located at 2,600 meters above the sea level and where a great part of the roses exported by Colombia are produced.
This technology has been successfully tested in Holland, United States, Egypt and Israel. In the case of Colombia, which exported roses for a value of 129 million dollars in 2012, it has resulted in an improvement of the flower quality and an increase of productivity.
According to Martínez, chemical products and pesticides have a similar effect than chemotherapy: “it removes cancer but your hair falls out because you are attacking your organism”; on the contrary, practically “there are no side effects” with predatory mites.
“It is nature working”, adds the researcher, pointing out that the advantages lie not only in the reduction of chemical product use but in that the microscopic insects reproduce quickly and are able to “hunt” their preys right at their location in the crop, something impossible for pesticides.
Bichópolis has applied this solution in 15 rose farms located at the savanna of Bogotá, where “the reduction of agrochemical products reached 80%”, according to Martínez.
The solution has been applied in greenhouses that cover an area of 60 hectares and it is expected to reach a great part of the 3,000 hectares of rose crops in Colombia in the next two years.
“We have a country with an immense biodiversity and a huge potential with regard to natural enemies”, comments Martínez. Bichópolis now plans to attack the whitefly, another pest found in rose crops, with a type of wasp that lays its eggs on the pest.
Guillermo López, technical director of one of the rose farms, says that this is a “very important competitive tool” because flowers cultivated with this treatment can enter into international markets, especially Europe, more easily. “We use this tool because we believe in clean production. It improves the plantation while taking care of soil”, adds López.
In its plan for the next years, Bichópolis expects to export its biological control products and explore other species for other types of crops such as strawberry or banana.
Besides rose crops, there are around 6,800 hectares of other flower species in Colombia looking for space in the international market.