Row Crop Market Is a Proving Ground for Biopesticides

The row crop biopesticide market remains on the front end of its infancy stage, although new and evolving product solutions are being proposed and developed every day.


According to Dan Custis, CEO of Advanced Biological Marketing (ABM) (Van Wert, OH), biofungicide offerings from Bayer and Syngenta, along with multinational formulator Albaugh, represent the upper tiers of the market. Smaller niche players, such as Certis USA, ABM, and Marrone Bio Innovations, fill in the periphery with products for the traditional row crop market and the burgeoning organic production in specialty markets.

“That market is growing,” Custis says of bio-based crop protection products in general. “We (ABM) are still waiting on EPA for our registrations. Imagine that? Waiting on the federal government. Who’s ever heard of something like that?”

Custis says the recent government shutdown pushed back some key potential releases that still require EPA approval before hitting the market.

“Having a biopesticide and having it be an EPA-registered product, that really brings the credibility up (with those products) with the whole ag industry,” he says. “We make our marketing claims every day, but being able to point to that EPA approval on the label, there’s real value there for us.”

In the row crop world, the majority of biopesticide deployments are going out alongside, not in place of, traditional crop protection chemistries.

“You’re able to have different modes of action when you combine a biopesticide along with hard chemistry,” Custis says. “And living organisms — I’m speaking in a general sense here — they would typically have a longer soil activity than a hard chemistry.”

As the players in the industry shake off the dust from the recent shutdown, formulators are doubling down on efforts to prove their products perform as promised.

“We’ve spent a lot of time researching and doing the science behind what we offer in the market,” Custis says. “We know how our products work because that’s been a primary mandate of mine. We want to know how our products work and what they do. If we’re coming up with biopesticide (ABM anticipates releasing a new biopesticide in about 13 months), whether that’s a biofungicide or bioherbicide, whatever it is, we want to know what it does and when and to what degree. That credibility part is what I want to make sure we bring to the market.”

An ongoing education campaign at the dealership level, all the way back to the farmgate, is also one of ABM’s goals going forward.

“I still think we’re on the upswing, because I started doing this with ABM in 2000, and when I started there was really still a lot of skepticism about bios in the market place,” Custis says. “As we’ve grown and expanded the product offering, coming up with products that do perform the way we say they will, all of the sudden the acceptance and adoption at both the farmer and retail level has really increased. But there is a lot left to accomplish, and we have a long way to go.”

New Product

On Feb. 6 Certis USA (Columbia, MD) launched Homeplate, an Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI)-listed, non-selective, broad-spectrum, fatty acid burndown herbicide that works as a foliar contact spray to control a wide variety of weeds, according to a press release from the company.

Homeplate contains a blend of 44% caprylic acid and 36% capric acid as its active ingredients. It features a unique mode of action that kills the green parts of plants and shuts down photosynthesis, causing the plants to essentially starve to death, according to Certis.

“Homeplate delivers consistent and unparalleled performance against target weeds on both conventional and organic farms,” Mike Allan, Vice President, North America, Certis USA, says. “This powerful herbicide contains fatty acids derived from palm and coconut oils and is a strong complement to the Certis product portfolio and reinforces our commitment to provide quality bio-based solutions to support grower needs.”

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