We don't eat daffodils or tulips so why does it matter if they are organic or not? Conventionally produced flower bulbs are one of the most polluted crops in horticulture and are heavily sprayed with Neonicotinoids; so cultivating flower bulbs in an environmentally friendly manner can have a big impact.
Organic Bulbs vs. Conventional Bulbs:
- Organic bulbs are not treated with systemic insecticides (Neonicotinoids) which are proven to harm bees and other pollinators.
- Organic bulbs are grown by farmers who create healthy ecosystems; this helps fish, birds, pollinators and all other living beings.
- Organic bulbs produce brighter, longer lasting flowers.
- Organic bulb farmers are paid fair prices and aren't exposed to harmful pesticides. Many pesticides are linked to cancer and other diseases like Parkinson's disease.
Neonicotinoids (or ‘neonics’) are systemic pesticides. Unlike contact pesticides, which remain on the surface, neonics are absorbed into the plant. Plants are sprayed or seeds are coated in these pesticides, which then are taken up by every part of the plant as it grows. When an animal eats any part of the plant—from roots and leaves to fruit, flowers and pollen—it ingests these pesticides.
Because they are systemic, these insecticides are taken up into every part of a growing crop. This includes small amounts in the pollen and nectar of flowers – where bees and other pollinators can become exposed to small doses. Whilst these aren’t usually enough to kill outright, they are enough to affect the ability of these insects to survive.
The majority of these chemicals leach out of plants and seeds into soil and water. Nearby wild plants take them up and become toxic. Any growing plant can take these chemicals up into their leaves, stems, flowers and fruits and scientists have now found neonicotinoids at high doses inside the pollen of wildflowers, such as poppies and hedgerow blossom.
Research has focussed on the impact of these insecticides on honey bees. The chemicals have been found to impair bees’ communication, homing and foraging ability, flight activity, ability to discriminate by smell, learning, and immune systems. These all have an impact on bees' ability to survive. Neonicotinoids also have a huge effect on butterflies, moths, insects, birds, fish and soil life. Simply put – we need the little things to feed the big things and if this doesn’t happen you will get wildlife population decline . You will also have no pollinating insects.
So yes, it does matter that bulbs should be organic - as should be everything we consume from food and flowers to clothing, personal care products and paint.
About our supplier, Annelies.
Annelies Timmerman has grown flower bulbs since 1986 on the family farm at Wieringerwerf in North Holland. The farm has been in the family since 1893. The land is on a polder and is 4 metres below sea level.
Annelies plants the bulbs for sale in the autumn with tulips being planted late in November. Compared to conventional bulb growing less bulbs per square metre are planted. This allows air to circulate between the plants and helps control the spread of fungus. In spring the growing crop is inspected to make sure that the bulbs are disease free and then the flowers are removed from the plants. This means that the energy of the plant will go back into the bulbs, instead of producing flowers. After the leaves have died off completely the harvest can start - usually at the end of June.
The bulbs are peeled and cleaned by hand. They are handled carefully at all times to prevent any damage that would lead to fungal infections or mites attacking the bulb. The bulbs are stored in cool, well ventilated sheds. The low temperatures keep away bulb mites. In conventional bulb production the mites are controlled by miticides.
Packing of the bulbs starts in mid-August – again by hand to protect the bulbs.
Up to 2012 Annelies grew 6 hectares of flower bulbs, but then scaled back the operation to concentrate on packaging and exports. However, one of her sons has now started growing the bulbs again so the family tradition is alive and well!