The drive towards Natuurboerdery® naturally also resulted in a whole revision of pest and disease control strategies. In the 1980’s the salesmen of agrochemical firms largely controlled the pest control scene.
Farmers depended on their recommendations and spray programmes.
Not surprisingly this resulted in many repercussion pests, resistance to pesticides, increased dosages and toxicity of insecticides, and health hazards and cost spiralling out of control.
At first ZZ2 adopted the sound principles of Integrated Pest Control, which entailed intensive scouting and the least harmful pesticides available to ensure survival of natural enemies.
Best technology for application then were Cima spray pumps introduced in the early 1990’s.
Tommie explored new approaches to “soft” pest control during a visit to Oregon in 1994, together with Dale Paul* who was starting a venture to market soft pest control technology.
Novel technologies were introduced, such as diatomes against caterpillars, various BT (Bacillus thuringiensis) strains and pheromone “attract and kill” remedies.
In 1997 an Insectarium was established by ZZ2 at Vreedzaam, in partnership with Dale Paul. This enterprise bred beneficial insects like Trichogrammatid parasitic wasps to combat caterpillar pests, and in 2007 was taken over by DuRoi Nurseries. Eventually in 2015 a joint venture between ZZ2 and BioBee (an Israeli international insectary) continued this venture.
Whilst the search for more natural and nature-friendly pest control continued. Extensive experiments with FPE’s (fermented plant extracts) were conducted. In 2006 a brew of EM and Lantana camara plants was found to be effective against nematodes, and proved to be a great breakthrough against this pest. Formerly extremely toxic chemistry had to be used. The team who were involved in developing these FPE’s were Prof Koos Prinsloo (EM proved highly efficacious as additive), Peter Hage, Johann Nöffke, Nic Venter and Richard Dahan. Later Dr Bombiti Nzanza led this research (2008 – 2015) and an ambitious herb garden of 2ha was established by Nic Venter for potential FPE plants in 2007. This was run by Razia Khan, and was supplemented by the planting of hundreds of Neem trees which were already known for their insecticidal properties.
Although many experiments with FPE’s showed great promise (like leaf application of Capsicum – an extract of peppers and EM), it proved impossible to register and legalise FPE’s on the tomatoes themselves. Remaining remedies were limited to soil applications where combinations of wild garlic and Lantana extracts, combined with EM, remain the most valuable. Compost tea with EM as a foliar fungicide (instead of copper) was effective, but proved to contain unacceptable levels of E.coli.
The use of catch crops and companion plants were also investigated. Several experiments were conducted by Bombiti Nzanza, of which the planting of brinjals around all tomato fields, a practice taken over from Rosario Beltran in Mexico, became an established protocol.
In all, ZZ2 succeeded to reduce the EIQ (environmental impact quotient) of its pest control, to one of the lowest in the world for tomatoes.
The erection of nethouses since 2012 has also reduced our need for pest control significantly. With build-up to 130 hectares of this protected cultivation, 12% of the tomato crops now only need control of the small selection of pests that can penetrate the nets. Diligent testing of disease resistant cultivars is also done on an ongoing basis to ensure that we work with the latest naturally resistant plant material.