Insects saving crops in Almeria

ALMERIA: Sea of plastic visible from space. Credit: NASA/Jet Propulsion Lab

FARMERS in Almeria have been swapping the large-scale use of pesticides for natural methods of pest control in the form of insects. 

The province produces half of Spain’s total vegetable exports in its 30,000 hectares of plastic covered ‘greenhouses’, which are visible from space. 

This amounted to 2,5 million tonnes of produce last year, mainly peppers, tomatoes, and aubergines. 

Since the 1960s farmers became more and more reliant on pesticides to ensure good crops, but more recently they have come to realise there is a better way. 

Instead of spraying their crops with harmful chemicals they have started hanging bags containing mites amongst their vegetables and fruits. 

These are harmless, except to the pests which they feed on. 

Now virtually all peppers in Almeria are grown without the use of pesticides and about 60 per cent of tomato growers have followed suit. About a quarter of courgettes are also grown using ‘biocontrol.’ 

Overall the use of the chemicals in Almeria – where agriculture accounts for 20 per cent of economic output – has fallen by 40 per cent since 2007. 

Now more ‘biofactories’ are being set up in the province in which to raise the mites for use not just by farmers in Almeria, but also throughout Europe. 

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Written by

Dilip Kuner

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