One of the most rapidly growing areas in agricultural pesticide R&D and commercialization efforts is biopesticides-- i.e., pesticides derived from such bio-based resources as animals, plants, bacteria, and certain minerals. Although biopesticide sales represent just a fraction of the larger agricultural pesticide market, human health and environmental protection concerns have led to stepped up demand for safer, cleaner alternative products to conventional pesticides. In addition, the increasing popularity of organic farming -- an industry where biopesticides are used more than conventional pesticides -- will continue to boost demand for biopesticides.
Beyond Bacillus thuringiensis
Historically speaking, the biopesticides market has been dominated by the use of Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt)--a bacterium that produces crystalline proteins and spores with insecticidal properties. Farmers have been applying Bt-based biopesticides to corn, soybeans, and other field crops since the 1920s. According to Emily Park, analyst with The Freedonia Group, while Bt-based products will continue to post gains in the biopesticides market, the majority of growth in the biopesticide market will be driven by non-Bt products derived from other bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other natural sources. Market penetration of new products and associated R&D activities will support these gains. Moreover, new biopesticide active ingredient registrations presently outnumber new conventional active ingredient registrations.
Focus Areas of Biopesticide Innovation
In contrast to conventional pesticides, where the development of entirely new product classes is rare, innovation in biopesticides has been moving apace, with an increasingly diverse array of products available to crop growers. Via recombinant DNA techniques, researchers have created microorganisms that target specific pests without damaging crops or causing harmful environmental side effects. A number of bacteria, viruses, and nematodes have been developed to combat specific pests. Other areas of biopesticide development include pheromones and other semiochemicals used to disrupt the normal behavior of insects (for example, by preventing certain insects from mating in order to forestall a second generation of infestation), fungi used to kill other fungi that are harmful to plants, and various natural oils used as insect repellants.
Biopesticide developers and producers such as Certis USA, Marrone Bio Innovations, BioWorks, and Andermatt Biocontrol have been active in the development and registration of new biopesticides. Biopesticides launched in the last few years include the following products:
Carb-O-Nator (Certis USA), a broad spectrum, potassium bicarbonate-based foliar fungicide approved for use in the control of powdery mildew, Alternaria, Anthracnose, Botrytis, Septoria leaf spot, and other diseases in agricultural and other applications
MAJESTENE (Marrone Bio Innovations), a bionematicide for the management of roundworm populations in a broad range of agricultural crops
Mycotrol ESO (BioWorks), an organic mycoinsecticide based on the fungus Beauveria bassiana strain GHA for use by vegetable growers and other customers in the control of whitefly, thrips, aphids, and other insects
Helicovex (Andermatt Biocontrol), a formulation of Helicoverpa armigera nucleopolyhedrovirus used to control corn earworm, tobacco budworm, and African cotton bollworm on a wide range of crops