In describing the new, more evolved era of biopesticides we are in today, Mike Dimock, Vice President, Field Development and Tech Services with Certis USA, captures it well, writes Jackie Pucci at AgriBusiness Global.
“As much as the challenge is learning how to use biopesticides, it’s also learning how to sell them, because these are not things that are going to be successful in the old paradigm of standalone products and standalone performance.”
Certis was formed in 2001 when Mitsui & Co. purchased the assets of Thermo Trilogy Corp. As many of its competitors have done, it has since expanded far beyond its U.S. base to a slew of international markets beyond North America.
In the old paradigm, biologicals were pigeonholed into organic and specialty crops. In the new paradigm, synthetics and biologicals are combined in integrated pest management (IPM) programs — and more so now than ever in conventional agriculture and broadacre crops. Marrone Bio Innovations, a top U.S. biopesticides player, counts conventional as 75% of its business versus 25% organic, and the same is true of the rest of the industry, Founder Pam Marrone told AgriBusiness Global.
“Everybody says, ‘What?!’ And I say, ‘Well, yeah.’ Organic is the fastest-growing segment of food, but it’s still small,” said Marrone, who founded her company in Davis, California, in 2006.
Chrissie Davis, a 16-year veteran of Koppert Biological Systems, where she is Account Manager for Northern California, describes “exponential growth” experienced by her company internationally and in California. Koppert ships microbial products, bumblebees and hive systems, and dozens of beneficial insects such as parasitic wasps and predaceous mites to 90 countries.
“It used to be that the grower would consciously decide to grow safer food. Now grocery stores are deciding for them: ‘I’m Safeway, and I’m not going to buy your tomatoes unless you do it this way.’ I went to the Organic Growers Summit in Monterey, and they had all of these time slots for growers to meet with Costco.”
While many existing IPM programs remain outdated, this is changing. Producers, predominately still in the high-value fruit and vegetable markets, are becoming more aware of their options for maximum residue limit (MRL) management, as many biopesticides are exempt from residue tolerances. A huge incentive lies in diversifying modes of action to reduce the risk of resistance and extending the life of synthetic tools, which are being taken away faster than they’re being replaced.