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Successful biorational control in outdoor crops

Jan Mostert considers progress in the successful use of biorationals outside the greenhouse

Great progress has been made over the last few decades in the development of biorational products, which include biopesticides, pheromones, beneficial insects and biostimulants, and the sector is showing a substantial growth rate at around 15% annually.  This has stimulated a variety of acquisitions in recent years of producers of such biorationals by the large agrochemical companies, to assure their presence in this market.

The production of many protected crops is now more or less entirely managed using these latest solutions and, in response to the constant pressures on the industry to reduce chemical applications, considerable interest has been generated in the transfer of such products to outdoor crops.  Indeed, they have been tested in various outdoor crop situations over quite a few years now, but the number of active agents used successfully on such crops has proved to be somewhat limited.  Even with the resources of the larger companies it seems to be difficult to find biorational products that provide reliable performance levels sufficiently close to the established conventional standards to provide economic sustainable production by the farmer.

Our experience of working successfully with and selling such biorational products over many years at Certis Europe, has taught us that a simple transfer of a product that works indoors, to an outdoor crop situation, is unlikely to work.  We have learnt to observe and take time to understand the products with which we are working indoors and to adjust the formulation and usage advice to fit the outdoor circumstances.  Climatological conditions are a particular factor influencing outdoor performance.  This is especially so in the case of living organisms such as microbials, when air humidity, temperature and sunlight can be critical, as can be the soil conditions required for the organisms to be effective. In outdoor situations, these factors are more difficult to control. 

Within our portfolio, we already have quite a range of our own biocontrol products for greenhouse production and also several that are registered and used effectively in outdoor cropping situations in a number of countries: for example slug pellets based on ferric-phosphate, a salt (potassium bicarbonate) to control powdery mildew as well as Bacillus thuringiensis and pheromone mating disruption products for pest control solutions in fruit and vegetables and a Trichoderma biorational fungicide as a microbial solution against soil diseases.

Our development work in this area continues with progress in bringing new biorational products to outdoor crops in the coming years.  At first this will be mainly focused on speciality crops but ultimately, they will expand into more major outdoor crops for the control of important pests and diseases.  Our research strategy includes testing in the laboratory, in semi-field situations and then in open field trials, followed by adjustments of the formulations and the use of appropriate application technology if needed.  This necessarily takes time, but is proving successful and is bearing fruit. 

The benefits of such products are well known and include the absence of residue issues, low risk of resistance development and increased safety for workers and the environment.  Coming in the next year or two will be new products including Botanigard, a Beauveria bassiana compound to control pests in vegetables, and Amylo-X, a bacterial biofungicide for use in outdoor crops (fruits, vegetables and vines) in the southern zone of the EU.  These products are now a reality and we are advancing our ambitions with even more products in development and soon to be ready for the market.