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New machine for sustainable pest control in potatoes: the Colorado Beetle Catcher

July 30, 2021

Two new prototypes of the Colorado Beetle Catcher, a new way of mechanical pest control, have been developed in 2021.

The prototypes, one for the front and one for the rear linkage of a tractor, are based on a number of trials done in 2020 and have been developed by Dutch inventor Joris van der Kamp and Fieldworkers, a company focused on applicable technology for sustainable agriculture, in close consultation with Dutch potato growers. The development has partly been made possible by support of the province of Flevoland and the European Innovation Partnership for Agricultural productivity and Sustainability (EIP-AGRI).

Tapping beetles and larvae off the plant

The Colorado Beetle Catcher is designed as an innovative machine for sustainable mechanical pest control of the Colorado beetle. ‘This pest control machine makes use of the natural behavior of the beetles, which drop and lie still for a while when the potato plant is tapped’, a description of the Catcher reads. The machine is therefore equipped with eight hydraulically driven rotors with plastic flaps, stroking along the potato foliage and tapping the beetles and larvae off the plant, after which they fall into special containers that move along with the machine under the foliage. ‘As the machine removes a significant share of the beetles and larvae from the potato crop, its results seem to be good’, Fieldworkers says. The recently developed prototypes are designed for either the front or the rear linkage of a tractor and have an operating width of four potato ridges wide. The team aims to bring several commercial versions of their Catcher with different specs to the market in 2022.

Beetles thriving in warm and dry summers

Colorado beetles are notorious enemies of the potato plant. In-flying beetles land on young plants and feed on leaf margins. They deposit their eggs on the underside of the leaves of the potato plant. The larvae are very voracious; they invariably start to feed on the margins to devour many leaflets. In severe cases, all leaves are eaten and all that remains are the stripped petioles and major veins. The development of the Colorado potato beetle, and its duration, depends greatly on weather conditions. In very hot summers a second and even a third generation may develop. ‘The beetles thrive in warm and dry summers. With the hotter summers, we expect this problem to increase, sometimes up to two or three generations of Colorado potato beetles in Dutch cultivation. There are no resources available in organic agriculture in the Netherlands to combat this pest’, the developers explain their efforts to partner up with potato growers and work on a sustainable way to control this pest. The machine is currently part of the (online) Dutch Bio Field Days.

The developers explain that, with the Catcher in the front linkage, a second implement can simultaneously be used, for example for hoeing the potatoes.


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