Category: News
Date published: August 10, 2023

Biological pesticides and fungicides – The natural way to control pests and diseases in outdoor crops

Biological pesticides and fungicides – The natural way to control pests and diseases in outdoor crops

As chemical resistance grows and the availability of chemical pesticides for agricultural use is increasingly restricted, growers must find new solutions to fill gaps in their plant protection systems. In horticulture, biological pesticides and fungicides already fill many of these gaps. And in agriculture, food safety authorities are quickly catching up too by extending the registration of biocontrol methods to outdoor crops. Paolo Banzato, Product Manager at Koppert, explains which solutions are available for outdoor use today, which are awaiting registration, and how they fit into IPM systems.

“Biological pesticides and fungicides are completely natural,” explains Paolo Banzato. “The active ingredients are microscopic organisms, such as beneficial fungi and bacteria, that help control pests and soil diseases. The registration process for these biocontrol methods is lengthy, even though they are demonstrably effective and safe. We have successfully registered a wide range of biological pesticides and fungicides for indoor use. Now we are working hard to extend more and more registrations to outdoor use.”

Controlling soilborne diseases with Trianum
As a result of these efforts, many countries have since approved the use of Trianum (Trichoderma harzianum T-22) in a number of outdoor crops, such as potatoes, carrots, leafy greens and onions. This biological fungicide can control a range of soilborne diseases, such as Pythium, Rhizoctonia and Fusarium in many different outdoor vegetables and row crops. Paolo: “The efficacy of Trianum is comparable to that of a chemical fungicide, but whereas chemicals put stress on the plant, Trianum makes the plant more resilient to stress. Healthier root systems improve the uptake of water and nutrients and stimulate plant growth.” Like most biocontrol methods, Trianum does not require special application equipment. It is available in different formulations to match the various application systems used by growers. You can spray or add Trianum-P to an irrigation system or apply Trianum-G to the soil or in the furrow using a granulator.”

Beneficial nematodes for pest control
Widely available for use in outdoor crops today, beneficial nematodes act as a highly effective biological pesticide. “In most countries, the registration process is easier for nematodes than for bio-fungicides like Trianum. That is because they are macro-organisms. The product itself looks like any biocontrol solution. The formulation keeps the beneficial nematodes dormant until they are mixed with water. Once activated, they actively and instinctively hunt their prey. Their widespread availability is good news for growers, because beneficial nematodes are incredibly versatile. They protect against a broad spectrum of soil pests like lepidopterans, wireworms, fly larvae and beetles in fruits, arable vegetables and outdoor vegetables such as leafy greens, onions, carrots and beans. We have also seen excellent results with nematodes against foliage pests, most notably caterpillars.”

Fitting biocontrol methods into IPM systems
Biological pesticides and fungicides will eventually help minimise or even eliminate growers’ reliance on chemical products and contribute to more sustainable agriculture. They are safe for the grower, the environment and the consumer. They leave no residue and require no preharvest interval, and pests do not develop resistance to them. Crucially, growers easily integrate biocontrol methods into their Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategy. Paolo: “We want to make it as easy as possible for growers to adopt biocontrol methods, so we work hard to make our products compatible with their current application equipment and processes. We inform growers of any potential compatibility issues and provide solutions. Products that cannot be tank mixed, can often still be applied separately a few days apart.”

Expanding biocontrol solutions for outdoor use
The length of the registration process varies greatly by country. Growers in Brazil have access to the greatest number of biological solutions. Other parts of the world are catching up. "We are in the process of extending the registration of Mycotal, a biological insecticide for the control of white flies and thrips, to outdoor crops,” says Paolo. “Our goal is to fill gaps in growers’ crop protection systems, and Mycotal will make a big difference. In addition to our registration efforts, we also continue to optimise our formulations to extend their shelf life and to make them easier to store and use. Our vision is to ultimately develop a systems approach for the control of all major pests and diseases in outdoor crops.”