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Bas Melissant has a packed diary. Having ultimate responsibility on behalf of Triumfus Onion Products (T.O.P.) for growing 750 hectares of onions, cultivated in locations spanning the Flevopolders, Noordoostpolder, Zeeland and Northern France, his schedule is dictated by a lot of travelling, discussions on progress and cultivation control. 500 hectares are cultivated by T.O.P. under its own management; 250 hectares are put out to contract. He sets some time aside for an interview at the offices of the contracting firm Van Oostrom & Hagenvoort in Bant. Melissant: ‘TOP sets its sights high; this requires the maximum input and involvement of its entire staff. Growing onions needs precision. Growth conditions need to be constantly at their best to prevent any loss of quality.’
The expertise displayed by T.O.P. translates into yields that are 15 to 20% above the national average. ‘Long’ onion set varieties can produce up to 47 tons per hectare; round onion set varieties – the Stuttgart types – up to 37 tons per hectare. Impressive figures that demand an explanation. Melissant: ‘T.O.P.’s success in cultivation is based on three factors: making good selections in each region from farms, fields and growers; optimum supervision of the cultivation and the use of advanced spray techniques.
Preparing well is half the battle. Some years ago, we made a critical review of our growers. We decided to continue only with those growers who were able to meet with our quality standards. This meant a combination of expertise and having good, healthy soil at their command. We have to do everything we can to keep the crop healthy, including the use of permanent, professional sprayers, but the precondition is a clean soil. With the assistance of the T.T.W. system, a cultivation control system originating from chicory growing, a log is kept for each plot of land starting from the time of sowing up to the harvest in which all cultivation measures and growth progress are set out precisely, such as plant balance and growth curves. After harvesting, we analyse the crop and fine tune it for a subsequent round of cultivation.’
By using HARDI TWIN, we have perfect sprayers at our disposal which, thanks to air assistance, cover the leaves well with spray, penetrating the plant.
This helps us keep fungal growth under control. We can also achieve greater capacity as a result of air assistance. We are able to drive faster while maintaining sufficient penetration of fine droplets deep within the plant. The spray is pumped, as it were, to the bottom of the plant. The amount of available spraying time is also more when using the HARDI TWIN: a good spray result is feasible up to wind speed 6. An additional advantage of the HARDI TWIN sprayers is that the spray direction can be adjusted. This application is of major benefit in the case of bulky plants prone to lodging.’
A practical example
Melissant underlines the importance of a good sprayer by giving a practical example. ‘In 2005, a grower colleague from the polder used a standard field sprayer to spray 30% more agent than we use, yet his yield lagged far behind compared with our production figures. 2005 was a particularly difficult year with a high risk of mould due to wet growing conditions. As a result of the high incidence of disease, this grower had to harvest earlier than usual which, apart from higher spraying costs, also meant a fall in yield of a good 10 tons per hectare. Thanks to using the HARDI TWIN, we didn’t have any problem in keeping fungal infections under control.’
Spraying performed by usIn 2005, T.O.P. decided to take the job of spraying into its own hands. ‘Up until 2005, we had been working with hired sprayers who used their own field sprayers. We had been toying for some time with the idea of investing in our own sprayers, given the great impact on the production result. We sprayed a great deal every year – every five days when fungal attack was severe – but still the onions became diseased. A visit to an open day in 2004 at the De Rusthoeve experimental farm in Zeeland was the decisive factor.
A spraying experiment showed the incontestable benefits of air assistance in onion growing. We got in touch with Luc Remijn from the Agricultural Information Service (DLV). We were led to HARDI on his recommendation. Following professional and thorough discussions with the representative from Homburg Machinehandel, Gijs Geerlings, we purchased three HARDI TWIN sprayers: one for the Noordoostpolder, one for the Flevopolder and one for France. The guidance was excellent. It was firmly established that T.O.P. would be able to improve its production result considerably by using the HARDI TWIN. Therefore, purchasing one of them straightaway was never an issue. 2005’s results were impressive, giving us every reason to acquire an additional HARDI TWIN in 2006 for our growing region in the north of France. At our request, a grower who works for us in Northern France also purchased a HARDI TWIN, bringing the total number of HARDI TWIN sprayers to five: on average, one HARDI TWIN sprayer for every hundred hectares. If we were to extend the area we have under cultivation, our machinery would certainly be expanded to include a new HARDI TWIN sprayer. We use it to do everything: foliar nutrition, weed control and, above all, disease control.’
A happy HARDI sprayer customer
Melissant decides: ‘To maintain our lead, we must continue to be one step ahead of the competition. We proceed on the basis of opportunities, not threats. The innovative HARDI Twin suits that outlook perfectly. Investing in a HARDI Twin sprayer pays great dividends. An optimum result is possible using less spray.’
A happy HARDI sprayer customer