Jan. 21, 2022
Koppert’s new applicator for predatory beneficials in protected strawberry crops, Natutec Drive, has produced some excellent results in its first commercial season in the UK.
Feedback from growers shows the Natutec Drive has proved to be a cost effective and accurate way of controlling pests, taking the use of beneficials and their efficacy to a new level.
Drive’s hi-tech dispersal system, usually mounted on a tractor-drawn trailer, employs a central 60-litre rotating drum which feeds via a hopper into boom-mounted distribution tubes, transporting product via a positive air flow onto the crop.
The operator can select product and dose accurately and quickly using touch screen controls mounted on the tractor. “Our trials have repeatedly shown that predator delivery rates are consistently accurate,” says Koppert technical consultant Jasper Hubert. “And costs have also been dramatically reduced.”
A grower survey showed it took eight to nine workers an average of 47 minutes to a treat 1 ha by hand, but with the Natutec Drive one person could treat the same area in 55 minutes, seven to eight times faster. “This produced an average saving of just over £40/ha per application,” says Mr Hubert. “For a 28ha farm carrying out 11-12 applications per season, the average in the survey, this would save a total of around £9600 per year, so the machine more than pays for itself.”
The design also ensures simple filling even when mixing large quantities, keeping refills to a minimum and speeding up the application process. “We had a few electrical glitches and carried out some minor modifications to individual machines,” says Mr Hubert. “But I don’t think we had one disappointed customer and we already have orders for new machines coming in.”
All Natutec Drives are custom built and available on lease hire from Agrovista, Koppert’s partner on fruit crops in the UK.
Mark Davies, head of Agrovista fruit, says: “Over the 10 years we have been working with Koppert UK we have been focused on the quality and efficacy of biological controls.
“Our team of specialist fruit agronomists works hard to monitor crops and make appropriate recommendations, but this can be all be in vain if quality of product or application technique is poor. “Hand application is OK to a point but relies on labour at a time in the season when other jobs, such as picking or cultural tasks, are also pressing. This has been a particular issue with the labour shortage we are facing. “To be able to apply excellent quality, fresh Koppert beneficials with less labour, and more accurately, is a massive help to growers. Every row, and every plant, is getting an even application, and timeliness is not compromised by labour availability.”
Read the full story at Agrovista UK.