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Strawberry grower tackles whitefly preventively with special suction machine

In the greenhouses of strawberry grower Jong Fruit, a special suction machine helps control whitefly. "This is the first serious prototype. Now you can really see results," shares grower Rob van der Wouw in a video showing how the machine works.

Right now, the strawberry grower from North Brabant, accounting for five locations, is visiting sites to test the machine. To do so, adjustments are being made, such as modifying the undercarriage in mid-April to run on a tube rail system with a different track width. "We have also asked the machine builder to have a hood made to make the underpressure chamber smaller so that the underpressure does not drop too quickly and the flies fall into the tube properly."

Directing airflow
The clever use of the suction system comes from the machine builder's quiver. "One fan provides negative pressure that is infinitely adjustable via a potentiometer. Another fan blows the white fly off the leaf. Again, the suction speed is adjustable." The growers, in addition to Rob, brother Arian, and associate Rob van Leijsen, exchanged ideas and discussed modifications.

Rob, along with a few more techies at Jong Fruit, made further adjustments to the system themselves. "I chose to treat all the rows, and I also want to be able to treat the rows when the fruit is not yet hanging or when there is a lot of fruit." For this purpose, directional brackets have been made so that growers get the airflow where they want it. "Then we can also blow through from behind the truss tape."

Last year, growers took their first steps with the system developed by machine builder Micothon. Multiple versions of the machine were made. The growers suffer a lot from whitefly. The infestation around Dongen even made the regional news. The finger was pointed at the village's strawberry growers.

Unjustified, Rob still thinks, but because the growers themselves are also suffering a lot from the bugs, they are now fully looking for solutions. "We would like to catch the whitefly at the front," he says.

That way, together with the use of biological control agents, the pest should be kept under control. "Last August, one day after planting the plants that came out of the freezing cell, there were already 100 flies," he says.

The grower suspects that, for example, when mowing outside the greenhouses, many flies get into the air in a cloud, and so also in the greenhouse, which is not netted. "You can't do that in strawberries. You need ventilation."

Further development
The suction machine could be a good step in the fight. "You never catch everything, but if you can halve the build-up or reduce it by maybe only a quarter, you are already making a big step," he says. The grower also continues to use biological control agents. "In order not to suck those up, we don't deploy the machine within one week of deploying biology," he says. A next step for Jong Fruit is to double the machine, which can be seen in the video below.

For more information:
Rob van der Wouw 
Jong Fruit
[email protected]  

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