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How pheromone innovations contribute to sustainable crop protection

AgroPages interviewed Certis Europe (among others) about its pheromone innovations, and views on pheromone advantages and markets

by Pedro Michelin, Certis Europe Portfolio Product Manager, Speciality Crops

Company introduction:

Certis Europe is a leading company in the provision of Biorationals, registered plant protection products generally derived from the natural environment. They offer improved benefits for plants, people and the planet, which are increasingly important factors for Integrated Crop Production to satisfy requirements of the value chain and consumers.

Certis has, for many years, focused on using science-based research to expand its portfolio and to deliver technically sound, sustainable and economically viable solutions that support growers and bring benefits for consumers. Its wide portfolio includes micro-organisms, natural substances and pheromones and all products are officially registered under the crop protection guidelines, which means that the quality and safety of all these products is guaranteed and performance has been proven by scientific research and development trials. Certis is present in France, Italy and Spain, the major markets for pheromones, with its range of pheromone products using the Cidetrak technology.

Challenges to the expansion of pheromone adoption:

The use of pheromones for mating disruption offers a completely different means of crop protection for growers who are used to treating a pest problem when thresholds of infestation are reached and then retreating as necessary so there are indeed some challenges to adoption of pheromones:

  • The idea of protecting the crop for the whole season by placing pheromone devices at the beginning, represents an important change of practice and, for the uninitiated, something of a leap of faith as to whether the effect will really last all season.
  • The substantial organisation required to make correct placements and the workload involved in doing so when they are busy with other things may be seen as costly and also complicated in terms of positioning and spacing of the devices.
  • Pheromones are often specific to one or two particular pests so it is perfectly possible that additional treatment will be needed for others. In the light of this, some growers may see a broad-spectrum insecticide that covers multiple pests as being easier to use.
  • A further challenge is the need to have a contiguous area of at least 2 to 4 hectares using the pheromone treatment to achieve best performance so, for example, if neighbouring growers are not using it or there is just a very small area, then efficacy may be reduced.

Innovative technologies used to increase pheromone efficiency and reduce costs:

Technical developments allowed Certis to launch Cidetrak Meso last year. This new product saves time, labour and, therefore, cost for the grower as fewer dispensers are required per hectare (80 -100 instead of 500) to provide equivalent efficacy in the crop.

Advantages of pheromones compared to other biocontrol solutions:
One of the features that applies to many bio-control products is that by their nature they require, very often, specific weather conditions (temperatures, humidity…) to reach high efficacy and consistent control of pests, being less reliable under different climatic conditions than conventional products. Because they are often less long-lasting, they can require repeat applications, and not many are rain fast. In addition, most have only a contact mode of action requiring very accurate application technique, for example to coat the whole leaf, to make them really effective and this is not yet optimised in some crops. A major advantage of the pheromone, Cidetrak is that it provides protection for a whole season once positioned in the right place in the area and in the tree canopy, lasting 180 days and has low dependency on weather conditions such as temperature, sunlight/UV or rain.

How to give the best ROI to growers:

It is important to understand that pheromones work on the basis of keeping the pest population at a low level. Critical factors in achieving effective control are:

  • The correct installation of the device following expert advice on positioning.
  • Larger areas under pheromone protection (minimum 2 to 4 hectares) to provide better efficacy.
  • Monitoring of pest infestation levels using trap systems so that any rapid population increase can be dealt with quickly, using a biorational or conventional insecticide as part of an Integrated Pest Management program, to bring down the infestation and maintain effective control.