The airport’s gardeners have banned the use of fertilisers and other phytosanitary products. Having started two years ago, the fruits of this ecological transition can already be seen today.
Mealybugs, an insect that grows to barely five millimetres in length, are a formidable foe. Devious in nature, these bugs discretely spread themselves out amongst the plants and suck out the sap until they weaken and eventually die. For the past several months, the gardeners at Genève Aéroport have launched a full scale attack in the greenhouses at the end of the tarmac. In retaliation, they have been using an effective natural predator: the Australian ladybird.
« We have released 300 larvae since the spring », explains Chrischona Barman, head of the horticultural team. « This natural solution is the perfect alternative to pesticides. We haven’t been able to save all the plants but that is an eventuality you must accept when taking the initiative to become organic. »
The team, responsible for the planting and cultivating of flowers for the airport, have worked chemical-free for the past two years. In addition to using to homemade alternatives to fight disease, such as nettle fertiliser and fermented horsetail, the whole system had to be revised.
Christian Bavarel, a gardening consultant, helped the team with their ecological transition whilst specifying that, « the hardest part is not giving up pesticides; it is renovating the system in its entirety. There is only one objective; making the garden resilient. »
In order to do this, part of the thuja hedge around the horticultural grounds was removed and replaced by native plants to encourage indigenous helpers (insects that feed on pests). The cultivator was also replaced by a broadfork. This tool helps to aerate the soil, which also encourages the growth of fungi that are beneficial to plant life.
The results are encouraging; dahlias, rudbeckias and sunflowers are in full bloom. From now on, these organic varieties will brighten up the displays at Genève Aéroport.
« This project has been extremely motivating, as it is a means of taking a stand and another step on our way to biodiversity », explains Chrischona Barman. With several other projects in mind, she is already thinking which one will be next. « I would like to cut the grass with a scythe and also create an organic vegetable patch for the employees. So you will have to watch this space. »