Biopesticides Emerging as Tool for Managing Resistance Issues

Naturally derived fungicides, nematicides and other products are becoming part of integrated pest management plans for no-tillers to protect crops and the environment.

NO-TILLERS CONCERNED about weeds, insects or crop diseases becoming resistant to traditional chemical controls may want to check out the growing lineup of biological pesticides on the market.

Biopesticides are made of naturally occurring substances derived from animals, plants, bacteria, fungi and minerals. They’re virtually nontoxic to people and the environment and usually target specific pests, reducing risks to beneficial insects, birds and mammals.

The products have long been used in organic farming and specialty crops, but their use in conventional farming is also growing. The use of biopesticides in U.S. agriculture has more than quadrupled, going from 900,000 pounds of active ingredient applied in 2000 to 4.1 million pounds in 2012. Nearly 18 million U.S. farm acres are being treated with biopesticides.

Something New

Biopesticides are the fastest-growing input segment because wers are seeing better results than chemical-only programs when biologicals are integrated in tankmixes and rotations, says Pam Marrone, CEO and founder of Davis, Calif.-based Marrone Bio Innovations. Other drivers are residue and resistance management.

“For row crops, the drivers are a bit different as residues and resistance are not as important as in specialty crops. Instead, increased yields and higher ROI are driving adoption,” Marrone says..

Recognizing this, the EPA created a new division focused on biopesticide regulation and development and has awarded a number of grants to research biopesticides for specialty and minor crops.

Many farmers use the products as part of their Integrated Pest Management (IPM) programs so they can rely less on higher-risk pesticides…

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John Dobberstein

John Dobberstein is senior editor of No-Till Farmer magazine and the e-newsletter Dryland No-TillerHe previously covered agriculture for the Tulsa World and worked for daily newspapers in Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Joseph, Mich. He graduated with a B.A. in journalism and political science from Central Michigan University.

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