The New Plant Health in Soft Fruit


Soft fruit production in Limburg, as in other regions, faces transition challenges including reducing chemical crop protection. There are many methods to secure plant health with consideration for the environment and surroundings. These require more strategic crop and business management and often have to be deployed jointly. As a result, they are still only minimally applied in practice.

In ‘The New Plant Health in Soft Fruit’, the Delphy Innovative Soft Fruit Centre in Horst shows the practical implementation of an integral approach to plant health in which minimisation of chemical crop protection is central.


Agriculture and horticulture are facing cross-sectural challenges that call for a transition from production focused on cost reduction to agricultural management that focuses on added value, integral sustainability and circular agriculture. Use of crop protection products to secure harvests is being increasingly restricted due to negative environmental effects, among other reasons. So too in Limburg, where a significant proportion of strawberry and soft fruit is grown under glass and tunnels.

More and more solutions are available that deviate from the traditional way of working where green and chemical crop protection with a base of biological control agents is normally used. Labels like ‘On The Way To Planet Proof’ set requirements to reduce chemical crop protection, but by combined deployment of sustainable measures, forward-thinking growers can minimise chemical use much further.

From fundamental research to practice

Fundamental research does provide principles on which crop sustainability can be based, but the translation to practice often proves to be a stumbling block. The Delphy ISFC (Innovative Soft Fruit Centre) is on the cutting edge between academic developments and knowledge dissemination for practical application. Delphy ISFC is rapidly emerging as a knowledge hub with events where grower, chain party, and researcher meet and exchange ideas. In its quest for impact maximisation, Delphy ISFC would like to focus its positive influence on, among other things, the specific transition issues surrounding the consumption of chemical crop protection in soft fruit cultivation. To this end, the project ‘The New Plant Health in Soft Fruit’ has been set up.

Seeing is believing

For practical impact, it is important that growers see the innovations with their own eyes and that growers have the opportunity to discuss their observations among themselves. Seeing is believing. For this reason, this project focuses on demonstration and knowledge dissemination around reducing chemical crop protection in soft fruit.

Being able to grow soft fruit with 25% of the maximum standard of active ingredient of the ‘On The Way To Planet Proof’ label results in a saving of 9,000 – 13,500 kg of active ingredient compared to the already sustainable standard. Through a combination of deployment of UV robots, drones, greenhouse climate control and plant enhancers, among others, we want to show in demonstrations that this saving is achievable.