Bio-Herbicides Rising: A Q&A With Pam Marrone

Marrone Bio Innovations Founder & CEO Pam Marrone, Ph-D.
Marrone Bio Innovations Founder & CEO Pam Marrone, Ph-D.

Q: Tell us some general information about Marrone Bio Innovations’ portfolio of herbicide products.

Pam Marrone: “We have three (bio herbicides) in development with a large pool of early stage candidates from our discovery screening. One of our most exciting product candidates is code named MBI-010. We discovered this from our screen looking for systemic natural products from microorganisms. It is a new species of bacteria that produces several compounds that move systemically in the plant. It is broad spectrum post-emergence with efficacy against herbicide resistant weeds. We are finalizing the formulations and expect to submit it for EPA registration next year.

Another is MBI-011. It is based on sarmentine, a compound isolated from the Chinese pepper plant. It is a broadspectrum burndown material.”

Q: How’s the product pipeline looking for the next two to five years?

Pam Marrone: “Marrone Bio Innovations has committed to launching one to two new active ingredients (AI) per year. This is very ambitious and, in my opinion, exceeds what anyone else can do in biopesticides. This also makes us unique in having a broad pipeline across all market segments. We also will be launching new formulations of existing products.”

Q: Why are these bio-based products useful in the marketplace and why do many experts see their use increasing as the years go on?

Pam Marrone: “First and foremost, biopesticides provide growers new tools in fighting the increasing threat of disease, insect and weed resistance. Most biopesticides feature complex modes of action, therefore, they typically are less likely to incur the development of resistance than single-site chemicals. Biopesticides are excellent resistance management tools when used alone or in combination with chemicals as tank mixes and in rotations. Most agricultural biopesticides are intended for use in conjunction with traditional chemicals that, in turn, are contributing to the rapid increase in use of biopesticides. When used in Integrated Pest Management (IPM) systems, biopesticides’ efficacy can be equal to or better than conventional products, especially for crops like fruits, vegetables, nuts and flowers.

Today, with the concern over synthetic pesticides and their effect on beneficial insects including honey bees, biopesticides are attracting more attention because they generally affect only the target pest and closely related species. They pose little or no risk to most non-target organisms including birds, fish, beneficial insects and mammals.

And that carries over to people too. Biopes­ticides provide some very important human-based benefits for ag retailers and growers. They provide greater margins of safety for applicators, farm workers and rural neighbors and require minimal PPE. In addition, biopesticides have much shorter field restricted-entry intervals (REIs), which makes it easier for farmers to complete essential agronomic practices on a timely basis. And many biopesticides have a post-harvest interval of zero days and are exempt from maximum residue levels (MRL) for pesticides, meaning growers can protect the quality of their crop right up to the day of harvest and meet their customers’ export requirements for pesticide residue levels.

This is in addition to farmers being able to provide food that will appeal to and satisfy discerning consumers, who are increasingly concerned about chemical pesticide usage and residue on the food they eat and serve their families.

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