Online Only: The Importance Of Biopesticides

Most growers working to create a sustainable agriculture system understand that their first line of defense against unwanted pests is not found in the chemical shed. No, the first line of defense is the beneficial organisms–the good bugs–out in the field. That’s why a solid Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program is one of the linchpins of sustainable agriculture. IPM combines cultural practices (i.e. safe planting dates), biological controls (i.e. predatory insects) and chemical control to keep pest populations low. But, when a pest problem becomes too severe and a chemical must be applied, the grower has two options: a traditional, synthetic product or a “softer” biopesticide.

Among the major benefits of incorporating biopesticides into a sustainable agriculture system is that they are generally more environmentally friendly and do not damage the soil, water supply or the wildlife–including the beneficial insects. The importance of nurturing a standing army of beneficial insects can’t be over stated.

“Their safety to beneficial organisms is one area where biopesticides definitely have a fit,” says Michael Braverman, manager of Biopesticide Program, IR-4 Project at Rutgers University.

Traditional chemicals can kill all the insects they come in contact with, while most biopesticides are insect and disease specific, controlling the unwanted pest while preserving the populations of beneficial insects.

“Give nature a chance,” says Rex Dufour, a pest control advisor and California field director for the National Center for Appropriate Technology and the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service.

“The beneficial organisms are just like livestock except they’re really tiny,” Dufour says. “You wouldn’t expect to have a really good dairy herd out in the middle of the desert. These diverse groups of beneficial insects need good nesting habitat and given half a chance, they’ll provide the services we need.”

In most cases, biopesticides are not meant to replace traditional products but to be used in rotation, thus lowering the amount of synthetic chemical being applied. Over time, insects and diseases build resistance to synthetic chemicals by alternating synthetic chemicals with biopesticides, the efficacy of the synthetic chemical is extended.

Not Limited To Microbes

Unfortunately, when it comes to educating growers about this class of crop protection materials, the famous line from the movie classic “Cool Hand Luke” describes one problem: “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.”

“Some people interpret biopesticides–often called biorationals–to be biological in a living sense,” Braverman says. “They misinterpret the word and think biopesticides only encompass microorganisms like Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) or some other microbial products. This tends to limit the scope.”

While the vast majority of registered active ingredients are microorganisms, biopesticides include a wide array of natural products, including pheromones and kaolin clay.

Registration & Demonstration

According to Janet Andersen, director of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Biopesticides and Pollution Prevention Division, 997 biopesticide products have been registered since the division was formed–”at the request of the agrichemical industry”–in 1994.
One of the division’s key purposes is to help expedite the registration of biopesticides because they are viewed as more environmentally friendly than products formulated using traditional chemistry. Expediting registration also assists smaller companies who are often under capitalized, to bring these products to market sooner.

In addition to helping expedite registration, Andersen also points out that the division works with the IR-4 project co-funding demonstration projects to trial and showcase the efficacy of certain biopesticides. This is a component of the division’s Pesticide Environmental Stewardship Program (PESP) to educate growers and promote the use of safer pesticides as part of a grower’s IPM program.

Braverman notes that a large number and a broad range of products have been trialed and funded by the EPA/IR-4 grants. Examples include the use of pheromones (mating disruption) to help control codling moth in Michigan apples; using fungus and bacterium-based products to control Sclerotinia (lettuce drop) in Arizona lettuce; and using phosphite and diphosphite products to control Pythium in a variety of greenhouse crops.

More Sustainable Benefits

While the concept of sustainable agriculture was initially designed for smaller growers who supply local markets, many large growers are adopting similar practices for regulatory, economic and environmental reasons.

In addition to the environmental benefits of biopesticides, Dufour points out two other factors that are becoming increasingly important to growers. Consumers are taking notice of where and how their fruits and vegetables are grown. “There’s a growing market for produce that is grown on farms that incorporate sustainable practices in their growing systems and farmers are aware of this,” he says.

Another key benefit has to do with regulatory issues, especially as they relate to water quality and runoff. Almost all biopesticides degrade quickly and have absolutely no detrimental effect on the water supply. “Let’s face it,” Dufour says, “nobody’s monitoring for Bt in our water because it’s a naturally occurring organism.”

Leave a Reply

More From Insect Control...
Koppert Ulti-Mite Swirski sachet

June 21, 2017

New Tool from Koppert Provides More Effective Thrips Management

A newly patented sachet for the predatory mite Amblyseius swirskii is resistant to both low and high levels of humidity, helping growers combat thrips infestations.

Read More
Cannabis Seedling

May 20, 2017

Biocontrols: A Practical Option for Cannabis

With limited options for chemical pest control, cannabis growers are incorporating biocontrols into their integrated pest management programs. More education will cement this solution as a viable option in this emerging market.

Read More
Four Lined Plant Bug

May 8, 2017

Four-Lined Plant Bug Emerges as Troublesome Pest in Pennsylvania

Four-lined plant bug damage is very characteristic: circular brown to black spots about one-sixteenth of an inch in diameter. The spots are easily mistaken for disease or frost damage.

Read More
Latest Stories
Koppert Ulti-Mite Swirski sachet

June 21, 2017

New Tool from Koppert Provides More Effective Thrips Ma…

A newly patented sachet for the predatory mite Amblyseius swirskii is resistant to both low and high levels of humidity, helping growers combat thrips infestations.

Read More
Cannabis Seedling

May 20, 2017

Biocontrols: A Practical Option for Cannabis

With limited options for chemical pest control, cannabis growers are incorporating biocontrols into their integrated pest management programs. More education will cement this solution as a viable option in this emerging market.

Read More
Four Lined Plant Bug

May 8, 2017

Four-Lined Plant Bug Emerges as Troublesome Pest in Pen…

Four-lined plant bug damage is very characteristic: circular brown to black spots about one-sixteenth of an inch in diameter. The spots are easily mistaken for disease or frost damage.

Read More

May 4, 2017

Bayer Altus Update: Neonic Insect Control Alternative N…

Altus, a butenolide class insecticide with the active ingredient flupyradifurone, will be available beginning May 1, and is labeled for greenhouse and nursery use on ornamental plants, vegetable transplants, and indoor vegetable production.

Read More
Ambrosia Beetle

April 7, 2017

Tips On How to ID Ambrosia Beetle Damage, And How to Co…

Ambrosia beetles are often overlooked as being a primary cause of plant loss, but research and experience are proving otherwise.

Read More

February 28, 2017

OHP Launches New Ovicide/Miticide, Announces Partnershi…

Applause is a new miticide that targets eggs and immature stages of several mite species. Through the Vestaron partnership, OHP will market Spear-O, a toxin-derived bioinsecticide.

Read More
Remote Sensing Feature

February 12, 2017

Using Remote Sensing to Optimize IPM in Greenhouses

Researchers at the University of California Davis are developing advanced remote sensing technologies to automate detection of insect pest infestations in greenhouses, which could revolutionize integrated pest management practices.

Read More
Adult Thrips feature

January 25, 2017

Tips to Stay Ahead of Aphids, Mites, and Thrips

Control these persistent pests with innovative chemistries that will expand your rotation options with new modes of action.

Read More
Effective pest control

January 12, 2017

Prevention and Early Intervention: The Keys to Biocont…

Advance preparation and starting out right helps you implement an effective biocontrol program that reduces pest pressure.

Read More
Two-spotted spider mites, adults and eggs

January 10, 2017

Pest Management Workshop to Take Place in Virginia on J…

Battlefield Farms will host the workshop, which is being coordinated by Virginia Cooperative Extension and will focus on new techniques in disease and insect control.

Read More
foxglove-aphid

November 29, 2016

How Greenhouse Growers Can Manage The Foxglove Aphid

Recent research is shedding new light on the foxglove aphid. Understanding host plants, identification, and biology will help growers deal with this pest.

Read More

October 25, 2016

Why Logic May Be The Best Defense Against Q-Biotype Whi…

Greenhouse Grower Editor Laura Drotleff says while you may feel you're in a lose-lose situation with pest control, there are some solutions that can help.

Read More
Downy mildew lesions on light coleus cultivars feature

October 4, 2016

Crop Protection Manufacturers Detail 2017 Early Order D…

Greenhouse Grower asked crop protection product manufacturers to send us the details for their 2017 Early Order Discount Programs and ongoing rebate programs, to provide you with a compiled knowledge resource of all discount offers at a time when you're making decisions for 2017.

Read More

September 28, 2016

Floriculture Industry Working To Solve The Whitefly Pro…

This summer, the floriculture industry has been faced with a dangerous new development — the detection of the Q-Biotype whitefly (Bemisia tabaci) in outdoor landscapes. It’s the first time that the Q-Biotype has been found in the U.S., outside of a greenhouse or wholesale nursery, since the pest was first detected on an ornamental plant in an Arizona greenhouse in December 2004. This year in Florida, there have been 47 detections of the Q since April, in retail nurseries and residential landscapes in 10 counties in Florida, from Miami-Dade to Duval County, primarily on hibiscus. Other hosts involved are crossandra, eggplant transplants, lantana, ficus, and porter weed. The detections have been in 17 retail nurseries, eight wholesale nurseries, 10 residential landscapes, and two agricultural fields. Other states have reported Q-Biotype detections this year, as well. The discovery of Q-Biotype whitefly in the landscape is troubling for the entire ornamentals industry, […]

Read More
Chrysanthemum Aphid

August 22, 2016

How To ID And Manage Black Aphids In Chrysanthemums

Growers in Michigan have recently been reporting a higher presence of this pest. Here are some tips on how to control it.

Read More
Greenhouse Whitefly

August 18, 2016

Vestaron Planning For More Research And Development Of …

On the heels of launching Spear-T, its first bioinsecticide, Vestaron has received additional financing that will be used to develop new products with new modes of action.

Read More
BioWorks Mycotrol

August 17, 2016

New Organic Mycoinsecticide From BioWorks Now Registere…

BioWorks’ Mycotrol can be used to manage whitefly, thrips, aphids, and other insects in greenhouses and nurseries.

Read More
Poinsettia, Heavy Whitefly Infestation -Lower Leaves, Insect - Feature

August 3, 2016

Tips For Successful Late-Season Whitefly Control

Managing late-season whiteflies successfully on poinsettia requires preventative measures put in to action early in the production cycle.

Read More