Zamora, like most of his colleagues, no longer sprays his crops with pesticides, alternatively hanging little bags of mites on the plants, leaving them to attack parasites even though sparing his generate.

He owns two hectares (5 acres) in the so-known as “Sea of Plastic”, some 30,000 hectares of greenhouses in southeastern Spain’s Almeria province, exactly where a lot of Europe’s fruits and vegetables are grown.

The sparkling mosaic of white plastic bordering the Mediterranean — which is visible from space — produces tomatoes, cucumbers, courgettes, peppers and aubergines all year round to provide Europe’s supermarkets.

Final year two.five million tonnes of generate was exported from Almeria, half of Spain’s total vegetable exports.

Like Zamora, practically all pepper growers in Almeria have replaced insecticides with so-known as “biological handle” employing insects.   

About 60 % of tomato growers have performed the identical, along with a quarter of courgette producers, according to the producers’ association Coexphal.   

Consumption of insecticides in Almeria — exactly where agriculture employs some 120,000 people today and accounts for 20 % of financial output — has dropped by 40 % considering that 2007, according to neighborhood authorities.

A trillion insects

The use of insecticides surged in the 1960s, but farmers have adopted new solutions below stress from customer groups as nicely as the reality that their crops have develop into increasingly resistant to the chemical substances.

“We have had to modify course. The use of pesticides became excessive,” mentioned Jan van der Blom, an professional in biocontrol at Coexphal.   

Encarnacion Samblas of environmental group Ecologists in Action described the modify as a “incredibly constructive step”.

“In lots of instances the reduction in the use of chemical items has been drastic, and the substances that are nonetheless in use are softer,” she mentioned.   

French agricultural cooperative InVivo, which has yearly sales of five.5 billion ($six.two billion), not too long ago opened a “biofactory”, Bioline Iberia, in the heart of the Sea of Plastic.    

A worker holds a test tube containing “Aphidius Colemani” parasitic wasps at Bioline Agro sciences Corporation in El Ejido . Photo: AFP

Inside hermetically closed rooms with tightly controlled temperature and humidity levels, staff raise 4 species of mites to be sold in the region as nicely as in Portugal and Morocco.

The enterprise projects production of a trillion insects this year.   

Numerous other factories of the identical kind have sprung up in current years around the Sea of Plastic, and roughly 30 firms sell insects, at steadily decreasing costs.

“Spain can be thought of the biggest region in Europe and possibly the world in terms of the use of biological handle,” mentioned Bioline Iberia director Federico Garcia.

Chemical substances nonetheless prevalent

But the road to genuinely green farming remains extended, mentioned Samblas of Ecologists in Action, noting that lots of farmers nonetheless use fungicides and various other substances to disinfect soils.

“Farmers continue to use chemical substances in a not incredibly rational way, since they are suggested, they are sold to them. Normally they use them as a routine, without seriously figuring out why,” she mentioned.

Even “organic” greenhouses — with two,000 hectares certified as such or seeking the label — generally spend tiny heed to biodiversity or fail to take proper care of the soil, the ecologist mentioned.

She noted that European regulations on these challenges are lacking.   

An enhance in the quantity of land applied for farming has place stress on water sources in an arid area, Samblas added.

Agronomist Jose Manuel Torres warned that year-round farming solutions favour the development of parasites, arguing that the area should really halt production during the summer season.

Samblas noted one more challenge: old greenhouse plastics generally come across their way into the Mediterranean.

By AFP’s Emmanuelle Michel