Exploring Innovative Approaches
Using Biocontrols To Reduce Pesticide Uses
by Richard O. Aichele
Increasingly, people in North America and Europe accept that chemical pesticides adversely affect not only the lifespan of unwanted forms of life but also may also affect wanted forms of life. Such as the people using or exposed to the chemical pesticides. There are natural biocontrol alternatives being increasingly utilized nut the transition faces challenges..
The Ladybug, or Lady Beetle, are among the most visible and best known beneficial predatory insects. "These small colorful insects are usually red or orange with black markings while some lady beetles are black, often with red markings. They have alligator-like larvae. Over 450 species are found in North America. Some are native and some have been introduced from other countries. Most lady beetles in North America are beneficial as both adults and larvae, feeding primarily on aphids. They also feed on mites, small insects, and insect eggs. The two exceptions are the introduced Mexican bean beetle, Epilachna varivestis, and the squash beetle, Epilachna borealis. The adults and larvae of both species feed on plants and many crops benefit from lady beetles. They are helpful for growers of vegetables, grain crops, legumes, strawberries, and tree crops; however any crop that is attacked by aphids will benefit from these beetles.
Most lady beetles found on crops and in gardens are aphid predators. Some species prefer only certain aphid species while others will attack many aphid species on a variety of crops. Some prefer mite or scale species. If aphids are scarce, lady beetle adults and larvae may feed on the eggs of moths and beetles, and mites, thrips, and other small insects, as well as pollen and nectar. They may also be cannibalistic. Because of their ability to survive on other prey when aphids are in short supply, lady beetles are particularly valuable natural enemies," according to the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University.
The European Union (EU) in the European Green Deal have goals of reducing the use and risk of chemical pesticides but also notes implementation challenges. Natasha Foote wrote in Fighting Fire With Fire Pest Conntrol By Playing Nature At Its Own Game (published in EURACTIV.com) "Biological pesticides are a form of biocontrol based on living organisms, which includes microbial pesticides based on bacteria or fungi as the active ingredient. These living organisms are naturally pathogenic to or out-compete pests. Biocontrol technologies are becoming an increasingly more important addition to the farmers’ toolbox, helping them ensure the future sustainability of the crop sector. According to IBMA, an association which represents biocontrol manufacturers, microbial biocontrol products are a growing market in the EU, currently representing a European market size of approximately €2bn of a €3.6bn market. Geraldine Kutas, director-general of the European Crop Protection Association (ECPA), told EURACTIV that there is no question that farmers require “effective and safe solutions to fight with pests and diseases”. There is also little doubt that using nature as a starting point provides “more opportunities to develop products with low-risk toxicological profiles, low residue levels and even more rapid degradation.”
However, although there are various incentives in Europe to promote the commercialisation and use of biopesticides, there is a lack of specific regulation regarding products based on microorganisms or biochemical extracts, meaning that they generally follow the same regulatory path as chemicals. Anika Gatt Seretny, senior communications manager at ECPA, concurred, telling EURACTIV that nearly 40% of all new actives that have been put on the market since regulation 1107 took effect have been biopesticides but that the “poor execution of the 1107 timelines has clearly hindered the development of biopesticides”.
...Andreas Huber, Corteva's Integrated Field Science Leader in Europe said“Some of these biologicals are quite potent and, when combined with other methods of control, show very promising efficacy and very promising value for growers.” He added that there is a “huge incentive for growers” to use biological pesticides because they help lower residues on crops and many of the compounds are compatible with organic agriculture. In reference to the increasing number of pesticides which have been recently banned, “there’s often now almost nothing available anymore [for the farmer] because in the past we had pesticides such as organophosphates, but now they’re all gone so there’s nothing really left now to control certain diseases”.
He added that microbial biopesticides will play an increasingly important role in agriculture to help face the challenges brought by climate change. “There are a lot of examples showing that with warmer climate, new pests are coming into Europe that really require control,” Huber said. He added that biological pesticides, combined with conventional pesticides and new digital techniques, can be an important part of the toolbox for farmers to deal with these new challenges."
There have recently been a number of banned active substances. While lauded by campaigners and environmentalists, this reduces the number of tools that EU farmers have at their disposal. In their roadmap for collaboration report, the association of European farmers and agri-cooperatives Copa-Cogeca highlights this problem, saying that since 2009, EU farmers have faced “increasing obligations to use alternative non-chemical pest control techniques, despite the insufficient information, knowledge and products at their disposal”. So while the ambition to reduce pesticides is clear, what remains less clear is how this will be achieved and what the future of plant protection will look like.
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