About Biologicals

Pro Farm Group is pleased to provide the following information on biopesticides for all who are interested in learning more about their origins, benefits, successful use and value when incorporated into all farming operations.

Biopesticides are naturally occurring substances, such as microbes, Bt bacteria, plant extracts, fatty acids or pheromones. Their use is growing rapidly worldwide, and they are in demand for their value in IPM programs to enhance yields and quality along with their low impact on the environment.

Biopesticides offer additional benefits, such as complex and novel modes of action for resistance management to extend the product life of conventional pesticides. They also add flexibility in a traditional farming operation with reduced pre-harvest intervals to manage residues for exported produce, and shorter field reentry times for workers, which reduces labor costs.

Read on to learn more about the history of biopesticides, current EPA registered products, their benefits and barriers to adoption, the science behind biopesticides, their rigorous registration pathway and field development process, and how they fit best in a pest management program.

Biopesticide Categories

Foliar and soilborne diseases are some of the most perplexing problems in commercial agriculture. Successful control of disease requires a carefully planned management program. Cultural as well as chemical strategies have been the standard line of defense. And while both are important, chemical fungicides can fall short after repeated use. Resistance has always been a concern in modern day intensive commercial agriculture.

Meeting this important need, Pro Farm Group has focused on the development of advanced biofungicides to serve as important additions to disease management programs. They work with a plant’s natural defense system, to help suppress and manage a myriad of disease pathogens.  What’s more, their mode of action significantly minimizes the possibility of resistance.

Using advanced biofungicides from Pro Farm Group, customers benefit from powerful pest control without with reduced concern for resistance and residues.

Managing insects and mites requires year-round vigilance, know-how and reliable tools. Ever-present issues such as resistance, regulatory restrictions and a dwindling number of registered compounds complicate matters. Regardless of the hurdles, it always comes down to one primary concern: effective and efficient management of these pests in the face of such challenges.

GRANDEVO® and VENERATE® —both with multiple modes of action and a broad spectrum of activity— are paving the way for new, innovative uses of microbial insecticides in field, greenhouse, and turf applications. The products feature very favorable performance and environmental profiles, along with MRL tolerance exemptions, minimal re-entry intervals of four hours, and zero-day post-harvest intervals. In addition, the products’ modes of action are complementary to one another, enabling them to be used alone or together to strengthen integrated pest management (IPM) or insect resistance management (IRM) programs.

Using advanced bioinsecticides from Marrone Bio Innovations, customers benefit from powerful pest control without disrupting beneficials or concern for insect resistance, residues, or worker safety.

Throughout North America and Europe, zebra and quagga mussels (Dreissena species), are infesting freshwater lakes, rivers and reservoirs and are crippling industrial and commercial operations by clogging pipes and damaging infrastructure and equipment. There is widespread agreement that invasive zebra and quagga mussels annually cost industries millions of dollars in lost productivity, repairs, and additional maintenance expenses.

Unfortunately the battle against these destructive species rages on, intensified by their unrelenting spread and complicated by increasing regulatory pressure to protect the environment and the ever present risk of employee injury that comes with the use of chlorine and chemical molluscicides.

In response to the growing need for an effective and safer approach to invasive mussel control solution, MBI launched ZEQUANOX®. EPA approved in 2011, ZEQUANOX is a low-risk pesticide that offers a number of advantages over manual removal methods, as well as mechanical and chemical based control products. With ZEQUANOX, customers benefit from ease of use and effective control of mussel populations, without incurring a significant capital investment, the additional operating costs of maintaining mechanical equipment, or the risks associated with the use of harsh chemicals.

Microscopic roundworms, known as nematodes, are some of the most damaging soil-dwelling pests in commercial agriculture. Plant parasitic nematodes attack and feed on plant root systems, severely effecting root quality and plant health, thus diminishing crop output and consumer acceptance. Managing nematode populations with a biological nematicide throughout the growth season will stop populations from reaching damaging levels.

The Environmental Protection Agency defines biopesticides as certain types of pesticides derived from natural materials such as animals, plants, bacteria, and certain minerals. Canola oil, garlic, mint oil and baking soda, for example, have pesticidal applications and are considered biopesticides.

Biopesticides are considered an effective pest control option for organic crop production. However, they increasingly are being recommended and used as components of Integrated Pest Management programs in the production of high-value specialty crops such as fruit, nut, vegetable, vine, ornamental, and turf.

At the end of 2008, there were approximately 245 registered biopesticide active ingredients used in products as varied as deer repellent and skin-applied insect repellents, as well as pest control products for commercial agriculture. As more natural pesticidal materials are identified and adapted for use, the number of registered products will continue to grow. Currently, the EPA recognizes three major classes of biopesticides:

  1. Microbial Pesticides
  2. Biochemical Pesticides
  3. Plant-Incorporated-Protectants (PIPs)

1. Microbial Pesticides

Microbial pesticides consist of a microorganism (e.g., a bacterium, fungus, virus or protozoan) as the active ingredient used to control pests. The microorganism may occur naturally, be dead or alive, or be genetically engineered. Microbial pesticides can control many different kinds of pests, although each separate active ingredient is relatively specific for its target pest[s]. For example, there are fungi that control certain weeds, and other fungi that kill specific insects.

The most widely used microbial pesticides are subspecies and strains of BtBacillus thuringiensisBt was first registered by the EPA in 1961. Each strain of this bacterium produces a different mix of proteins, and specifically kills one or a few related species of insect larvae. While some Bt strains control moth larvae found on plants, other strains are specific for larvae of flies and mosquitoes.The target insect species are determined by whether the particular Bt produces a protein that can bind to a larval gut receptor, thereby causing the insect larvae to starve.

2. Biochemical Pesticides

Biochemical pesticides are naturally occurring substances, such as plant extracts, fatty acids or pheromones, that control pests using a nontoxic mode of action to the pest. Conventional pesticides, by contrast, are generally synthetic materials that directly kill or inactivate the pest, most frequently by attacking the nervous system. Biochemical pesticides, while nontoxic, can be lethal such as clays that suffocate insects, anti-feeding compounds that cause starvation, or vinegar that kills plants. Other biochemical pesticides include substances such as insect sex pheromones that disrupt mating, repellents that protect plants from deer or insect pests, and various scented plant extracts that attract insect pests to traps. The EPA has established a special committee to evaluate products and to determine whether a substance meets the criteria for classification as a biochemical pesticide.

3. Plant-Incorporated-Protectants (PIPs)

Plant-Incorporated-Protectants (PIPs) are pesticidal substances that plants produce from genetic material that has been added to the plant, such as corn and cotton. Scientists have taken the gene for the Bt pesticidal protein, and introduced the gene into the plant’s own genetic material. The plant, instead of the Bt bacterium, manufactures the substance that destroys the pest. The protein and its genetic material, but not the plant itself, are regulated by EPA.

The success of PIPs in wide-scale commercial row-crop production cannot be ignored. According to the USDA-ARS, tobacco budworm ( Heliothis virescens ) and bollworm ( Helicoverpa zea ) are two of the most destructive pests in cotton and other crops, with costs of control, production, and lost yield of up to $300 million per year in the United States alone. In the late 1980s industry began to develop crops with built-in pest control from Bacillus thuringiensis Bt ) genes, which produce proteins toxic to several insects, including tobacco budworm and bollworm.

Cotton was one of the first crops to benefit from biotechnology-supplied pest protection, and Bt cotton is now one of the most widely used transgenic crops. It is currently grown throughout the United States, China, India, and Australia. More than 2 million acres of Bt cotton are grown in the United States alone. Other crops, including corn, potatoes, and soybeans, also now contain Bt genes.

The use of PIPs or genetically modified crops is generally considered to be based on planting and crop management decisions. For this reason, only the use of microbial and biochemical pesticides in effective pest management programs are discussed in this course.

Before a conventional pesticide can be marketed and used in the United States , the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) requires that EPA evaluate the proposed pesticide to assure that its use will not pose “unreasonable risks of harm to human health and the environment.” This regulation involves an extensive review of health and safety information. To that end, the EPA may require more than 140 different studies on a chemical’s toxicology, crop residues and environmental effects. The EPA also sets tolerances (maximum pesticide residue levels) for the amount of the pesticide that can legally remain in or on foods.

Typically biopesticides receive exemptions from tolerance because they are biodegradable or microbials and the establishment of residue levels is not appropriate.

Biopesticides are regulated by the same laws and regulations as chemical pesticides by the Biopesticide Pollution and Prevention Division at the EPA. However, because biopesticides tend to pose fewer risks than conventional pesticides, EPA generally requires less data to register a biopesticide than to register a conventional pesticide. Accordingly, new biopesticides are registered in less than the average of 3 years it takes to register conventional pesticides. The time for biopesticide approval is 12 months for ornamentals and turf (nonfood crops) and 18 months for food crops, as governed by the Pesticide Registration Improvement Act (PRIA).

The EPA has implemented a tiered approach to biochemical pesticide data requirements that reduces the amount of testing, and saves money, time, and the number of animal tests. The EPA may waive certain data requirements if the original product chemistry or substance is food grade. If initial toxicity tests are negative at the maximum dose, no further testing is required, especially where the substance is well known. Also, public literature is frequently used to support a biochemical compound. According to EPA, most pheromone compounds have been exempted from testing through a deregulation process

Microbial pesticides have slightly different EPA protocol. These products are predominately bacteria, but also include fungi and viruses, which can directly kill an insect pest or out-compete a naturally occurring pest species. Each strain of these pesticides is registered as a separate active ingredient.

EPA requires the following for microbial pesticides:

  • product charter and keeping of specimens in a recognized culture collection
  • track pathogenicity rather than toxicity (how long does it take for the microbe to clear from a test animal), and
  • more extensive non-target testing than for chemical pesticides because these are living organisms capable of reproducing in the field. For example, 30-day feeding studies to assess pathogenicity against ladybeetles, lacewings and bees are required.

Though the time line is reduced, field testing for biopesticides to be registered for use on high-value specialty crops such as fruit, vegetables, nursery plants and ornamentals is disproportionately expensive for small biopesticide manufacturers. Additionally, the return on investment for the agrichemical industry is limited when compared to that of conventional pesticide development and use.

According to the U.S. Agriculture Census, these high-value crops account for more than $43 billion in annual production. Minor food crops are raised on 12 million acres of farmland and account for approximately 40 percent of all U.S. crop sales.Domestic specialty crop production could not be successful without access to many of the same pesticides used by large acreage crop producers. However, the lack of financial incentives to the agrichemical industry limits the registration of minor crop pesticide applications. Recognizing this problem, the USDA and state agricultural experiment stations organized the Interregional Research Project Number 4 (IR-4) to help minor acreage, specialty crop producers obtain EPA tolerances and new registered uses for pest control products. The IR-4 Project is publicly funded and works closely with growers and commodity groups, state university extension researchers, USDA scientists, the agrichemical industry, and EPA. Examples of IR-4 research projects 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.

One of the goals of the IR-4 Project is to ensure that safe and efficient alternative pest control products such as biopesticides are available to producers by facilitating the registration of biopesticides. In 2008, t he IR-4 Biopesticide Program funded 29 research projects to provide data to support expansions on a number of biopesticide registrations. IR-4’s efforts supported 18 new or modified products which could provide 128 new biopesticide uses. The IR-4 Project also maintains a database of biopesticides available to combat specific pests and diseases on numerous crops. The database, a joint project between the EPA and biopesticides manufacturers, helps link these small biopesticide companies and their products with growers and researchers. The database, housed at Rutgers University, can be accessed at http://www.ir4.rutgers.edu/index.html.

The EPA recognizes that biopesticides are generally lower risk than conventional pesticides and encourages the increased development and use of biopesticides. The use of safer pesticides, including biopesticides, is encouraged as a component of integrated pest management programs. Effective pest management tools such as IPM programs enable producers to manage for pesticide resistance while maintaining a safe and dependable food supply.

The use of biopesticides, according to industry experts, can provide numerous benefits in crop production and turf management.

The demand for biopesticides is rising steadily in all parts of the world. The reason for the rise in demand is because of increased public awareness of environmental issues and the improved quality and performance of modern biopesticides. The general public, not just pesticide users, is quite possibly a driving force behind the rise in demand. The public is concerned about issues such as the potential for pollution and possible health hazards which include worker safety, bird toxicity, air pollution and surface and groundwater contamination. The public, whether right or wrong, perceives these issues to be related to the use of conventional pesticides.

The issues are most acute where the urban/housing segment and agriculture sector meet. The rapid growth of housing into rural areas creates clashes of interest for farmers, environmental groups and residents. For example, the governments in the northern European countries of Denmark, Sweden and The Netherlands have required a 50 percent reduction in on-farm chemical pesticide use. Many countries pay farmers large subsidies to farm organically and sustainable and organic farming are codified into the EU Common Agricultural Policy. In early 2009, the European Union voted to phase out more than 200 chemical pesticides. Ontario has banned the use of chemicals for “cosmetic” purposes for landscaping. Many Asian countries have banned classes of toxic chemicals. Most recently, McDonald’s Corporation, under pressure from a group of shareholders, agreed to the reduced use of pesticides on potatoes. Wal-Mart, SYSCO Foods, and other food companies also have major sustainability and sustainable agriculture programs that dictate pesticide use rules for suppliers.

In the global pesticide marketplace, biopesticides’ market share is projected to reach just over 4 percent (more than $1 billion) by 2010. In contrast, it is anticipated that the market for chemical pesticides will continue to increase only with inflation as transgenic seeds continue to reduce the need for chemical sprays and governments continue to restrict or remove products from the market.

In the United States, producers are becoming more familiar with the science behind biopesticides. Steady advances were made in the 1990s and 2000s in microbial and biochemical research and in formulation technology, so today’s biopesticides are much improved over earlier biopesticides. The advantages offered by the use of biopesticides are spurring increased usage in the areas of landscaping, home gardening and farming.

In the sector of production agriculture, the use of biopesticides offers a number of benefits. First and foremost, biopesticides provide a new tool in a grower’s resistance management program because a biopesticide can offer an additional mode of action in pest management. Biopesticides not only extend the product life of traditional chemicals, according to industry reports, but they can add flexibility to harvest timing and reentry times. They also can affect plant physiology and morphology in ways that maximize yield, pack out, and often the efficacy of tank mix partners.

When used in Integrated Pest Management systems, biopesticides’ efficacy can be equal to or better than conventional products, especially for crops like fruits, vegetables, nuts and flowers.

Biopesticides provide greater margins of safety for applicators, farm workers and rural neighbors and have much shorter field restricted-entry intervals (REIs), which makes it easier for farmers to complete essential agronomic practices on a timely basis and schedule harvest operations.

Biopesticides 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.

Many of today’s biopesticides are biodegradable, resulting in essentially no risk to surface water and groundwater. Biopesticides also generally have low-volatile organic chemicals (VOC) content and can be used to reduce the air pollution caused by high-VOC chemicals (e.g. fumigants in the San Joaquin Valley in California ).

Biopesticides feature complex modes of action. Therefore, they typically are less likely to incur the development of resistance in the target insect pests, plant pathogens and weeds than single-site chemicals. Biopesticides are excellent resistance management tools when used alone or in combination with chemicals as tank mixes and rotations. Most agricultural biopesticides are intended for use in conjunction with traditional chemicals which, in turn, is contributing to the rapid increase in use of biopesticides.

Biopesticides are produced by environmentally friendly and sustainable production processes. Microbial biopesticides are produced by fermentation using readily available biomass (agricultural raw materials) such as soy flour and corn starch. Waste from fermentation processes is often applied back to farms as fertilizer.

Biopesticides can be and many are approved for use in organic farming, the fastest growing segment of the food industry. Approximately 5 percent of all biopesticide use is for organic applications.

Of all types of growers, those with the largest operations tend to be the most avid users of biopesticides. Millions of acres of cropland receive at least one application of biopesticides each year. Growers who incorporate biopesticides into their programs are typically among the more progressive and entrepreneurial growers in their markets. Growers who use biopesticides do so because they see a tangible return on investment. Growers who use biopesticides use them because the products:

  • are efficacious
  • are effective in managing pesticide resistance
  • leave minimal crop residues
  • permit harvest flexibility
  • maintain beneficial insect and mite populations
  • ensure worker safety, and
  • promote environmental safety.

Biopesticides are reliable and effective when used properly. It’s important to be educated before using them. Biopesticides are just as effective as synthetic products and can be used in mainstream crop production and turf management if used properly. Using biopesticides is different than using “conventional” chemistries and traditional cropping programs. Biopesticides present unique modes of action and agronomic practices that must be fully understood. Biopesticides provide different benefits depending on what product is used, on what crops they are used, and what they are designed to accomplish. So it becomes critical to first understand how a biopesticide product is designed to work in a given cropping program, and then to thoroughly evaluate the product based on the potential benefits.

By combining performance and safety, biopesticides perform efficaciously while providing the flexibility of minimum application restrictions, superior residue and resistance management potential, and human and environmental safety benefits. Despite these advantages, there are significant barriers that impede adoption of biopesticides. These barriers include a competitive market, risk-averse customers, a complex selling channel, perceived lack of efficacy and lack of awareness about the products.

1. Highly competitive, capital intensive marketplace. There are many companies in the pesticide industry, ranging from the multibillion-dollar agrichemical companies to many small-medium biopesticide companies. The plethora of companies and products makes it hard for small biopesticide companies to stand out from the others, to properly conduct field trials and on-farm demonstrations and customer education, and to develop marketing programs.

2. Risk-averse customer. Growers, distributors and pest control advisors (PCAs) have become accustomed to affordable chemicals that generally perform to expectations and believe there is no reason to change. When evaluating a pesticide the questions a user should ask are:

  1. Does it work as well or better than existing chemical pesticides?
  2. What does it cost?
  3. What other benefits are there? Is it safer?

Growers will try a new biopesticide product and compare it with their existing pest management programs in demonstration trials. Conducting demonstrations is the best, if not only way to gain adoption. In addition, University Extension researchers will also test pesticide products and provide their recommendations. Therefore, adoption can be faster as more field trials are conducted.

3. Complex selling channel. In order for a biopesticide company to make a sale, it must go through traditional selling channels, the development of which is complex and costly.

4. Perception of biopesticides. Biopesticides are not always perceived in a positive light. In one industry survey, growers admitted they do not know about biopesticides and perceive the cost/efficacy ratio to be out of balance. While there are many examples of successful, effective biopesticides in use, the overall perception is not consistent with the potential value these products can provide. In one California survey, growers and PCAs indicated that biopesticide companies should place a heavy emphasis on education in order to establish sustainable use of the product. They indicated that the companies should target specific markets, either by crop, pest or disease. In turn, companies should be very clear about the protection and value being provided to the grower. It is important to tell customers how and when to use their biopesticide products.

Biopesticides can be used successfully:

  • to manage for pesticide resistance;
  • in rotations with other products, as a stand-alone and in tank mixes;
  • early in the growing season when pest pressure is low;
  • late in the season when a short preharvest interval is needed;
  • during critical field events such as multiple harvests;
  • to manage or eliminate pesticide residue;
  • and to reduce labor costs when it is important to have a short reentry interval.

Biopesticides need not be reserved for organic crop production. Biopesticides can be particularly effective when incorporated into integrated pest and disease management programs and when used in conjunction with conventional pesticides. Biopesticide products typically have no pre-harvest intervals and very short reentry intervals, which permits a crop to be harvested immediately after the biopesticide is sprayed. This is particularly important in export crops that are shipped globally and are subject to international maximum residue levels.

The use of biopesticides can be an effective tool in managing for pesticide resistance. According to Extension recommendations for orchards in the Pacific Northwest, pesticide resistance management will extend the useful life of valuable IPM-compatible pesticides. In order for resistance management to be successful, orchardists and others need to:

  • routinely monitor pests;
  • use reasonable treatment thresholds; and
  • make full use of nonpesticidal methods, such as biological and cultural control, sanitation and host plant resistance.

For well-developed IPM systems, like those used in Pacific Northwest tree fruit production, resistance management programs are key. The lack of registration of new pesticides, coupled with a loss of registered pesticides to the regulatory process or to resistance, will leave growers with few or no registered products that adequately control key pests. With good IPM practices, the efficacy of key pesticides can be prolonged considerably and, in some cases, maintained indefinitely.

Biopesticides can be used as a management tool in rotations with other products to reduce pesticide resistance. Biopesticides contain multiple modes of action which makes them well-suited for rotation in pest management programs to help prolong the efficacy of conventional pesticides.

Biopesticides help with resistance management in two ways. When a biological is substituted for a conventional pesticide, the cycle of repeated applications that leads to pest and disease resistant populations is broken. This, then, extends the efficacy and lifespan of the most critical synthetic materials. Also, because of the complex chemical nature of biopesticides, it is difficult for pests and diseases to easily mutate and build resistance to biopesticidal compounds.

Rotating biopesticides with conventional pesticides has been termed “absolutely critical” in the fresh-market vegetable industry in California . Using biopesticides on a regular basis to break the cycle of using harder chemicals and to prevent resistance development is highly recommended.

The most widely used biopesticides for resistance management are Bacillus thuringiensis or Bt -based products. There are thousands of strains of Bt, many of which have been used to manufacture microbial insecticides.

Bt is a naturally occurring bacterium, discovered nearly 100 years ago, that is found throughout most regions of the world. It occurs naturally in soil and in other common environmental habitats where insects are found. It has pesticidal properties when consumed by the larvae of specific insects.

The primary toxic component of Bt is a crystalline protein (toxin). Bt must be eaten by the insect larvae to cause mortality. Bthas no effect on adult insects. When ingested, the Bt toxins dissolve in the insect gut and become active in the presence of highly alkaline conditions. The toxins then attack the lining of the insect gut, rupturing the cell walls and allowing the gut’s contents to spill into the insect’s circulatory system. After ingestion of a lethal dose of Bt, the insect stops feeding and plant damage is halted. Death of the insect follows within three or four days. If larvae survive the toxin, they may be more susceptible to other environmental stresses, such as cold temperatures or low levels of biopesticides.

Certain strains of Bt affect members of three insect Orders: Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths), Diptera (mosquitoes and biting flies), and Coleoptera (beetles). Commercially available, EPA-registered Bt products include:

B.t. aizawai (Lepidoptera) – used for wax moth larvae in honeycombs and for diamondback moth caterpillars.

B.t. israelensis (Diptera) – frequently used for mosquitoes and blackflies.

B.t. kurstaki (Lepidoptera) – frequently used for gypsy moth, spruce budworm, and many vegetable pests such as diamondback moth and cabbage looper. It is also used for fruit pests such as leafrollers on apples and peach twig borer.

B.t. tenebrionis (Coleoptera) – used for elm leaf beetle, Colorado potato beetle

B.t. kurstaki is the most commonly used Bt formulation, as it will kill many leaf-feeding larvae on vegetables, shrubs, fruit trees and conifers.

To effectively use Bt microbial insecticides, consider the following:

  • Timing of application is critical. Make the initial Bt application immediately before or just after egg hatch while the larvae are still small. Monitor plants for worm eggs and use pheromone traps to determine when adult moths are in the area and when egg laying is likely to occur.
  • The larvae must eat Bt -treated foliage. Therefore, good spray coverage of the plant is essential for satisfactory control. Use adequate spray volume and pressure. Small droplet size is best; too much water dilutes the active ingredients (protein crystals and spores) and reduces efficacy.
  • Properly identify the target insect species and select the Bt strain with activity against that insect. The product label will indicate the Bt strain contained in the product, and will list pest insects controlled.
  • Bt products offer an effective alternative to conventional insecticides for control of certain pest insect species. It is also useful to alternate or tank mix Bt s with conventional insecticides to delay the development of insect resistance to any one material. For example, tank mix Bt with chemical pesticides to control tomato fruitworm.
  • Bt activity is affected by environmental factors including temperature, rainfall, pH, and sunlight. Bt applied to leaf surfaces, for example, can be degraded by solar UV or washed off by irrigation or rainfall.
  • Bt is considered to be “practically nontoxic” to humans and other vertebrates. It has been extensively used for many decades in biopesticidal formulations because of its safe environmental and human health records.

Like any other pest control method, Bt works best as part of an integrated management plan. The goal of an IPM plan is to reduce pests to acceptable levels, not to eliminate them completely. Bt has become a cornerstone of IPM programs, accounting for more than 90 percent of the biological insecticides currently used. Though Bt has been used successfully alone, the practice of IPM generally incorporates Bt with the following control methods:

Cultural: Crop rotation; minimum tillage; shelter strips

Mechanical: Removal of pest (eggs and larvae); removal of infested materials

Biological: Parasitoids; pathogens, including Bt , fungi, granulosis virus and nucleopolyhedrosis virus; predators

Biochemical and Chemical: Botanical insecticides such as neem and pyrethrins; pheromone baiting/mating disruption; and pyrethroids, spinosads and other chemicals.

Effective IPM programs frequently incorporate the use of pheromones as a method of insect control. Pheromones are chemicals emitted by living organisms used to send messages to individuals – usually of the opposite sex – of the same species. Pheromones of hundreds of insect species have been chemically elucidated, including the sex pheromone of the codling moth.

When used in combination with traps, sex pheromones can be used to determine what insect pests are present in a crop and what plant protection measures or further actions might be necessary to assure minimal crop damage. If the synthetic attractant is exceptionally effective and the population level is very low, some control can be achieved with pheromone traps or with the “attract and kill” technique.

Generally, however, mating disruption is more effective. Synthetic pheromone that is identical to the natural version is released from numerous sources placed throughout the crop to be protected. The male moths are then unable to locate the females and the number of matings and offspring are reduced.

Mating disruption has been successful in controlling a number of insect pests. More than 20 percent of the grape growers in Germany and Switzerland use this technique and produce wine without using insecticides. In the United States, mating disruption has proven effective in codling moth, navel orangeworm, pink bollworm, Oriental fruit moth, European grape moth, and grapevine moth, to name a few. More than 40 percent of the fruit tree acres in the western U.S. are treated with mating disruption for caterpillar control.

There is a wide array of biopesticide products from which to choose. Whether incorporating biopesticide products into conventional, sustainable, or organic production systems; growers, pest control advisors and applicators need to educate themselves about the numerous products and how they are used.  A good place to start is with the IR-4 database that was mentioned in Section One. Also, the software and services firm Agrian and CDMS (Crop Data Management Systems) post labels and have searchable databases to find biopesticide solutions for specific crops, pests, weeds and diseases.

Another place to seek information is directly from the developers of the biopesticide products. The Biopesticide Industry Alliance, found at www.biopesticideindustryalliance.org, is a good source of company information. One biopesticide developer, Marrone Bio Innovations (MBI) of Davis, California, states its purpose is “to discover, develop and market effective and environmentally responsible natural products that focus on unmet needs for weed, pest and plant disease management.”  Product development is based on sound science, statistically evaluated data, market research, direct contact with customers and good financial analysis.

A Biofungicide: Regalia®
Regalia protects food and ornamental crops from both fungal and bacterial disease. Regalia has an unique mode of action that induces systemic resistance and switches on the natural defense mechanisms of plants.  Regalia inhibits the development of major economic diseases, including powdery mildew, downy mildew, botrytis gray mold, bacterial leaf spot, greasy spot, target spot, brown rot, gummy stem blight, walnut blight, citrus canker, anthracnose, mummy berry, and others.
Regalia is a patented formulation of an extract from the giant knotweed plant (Reynoutria sachalinensis). Research shows that plants treated with Regalia produce and accumulate elevated levels of specialized proteins and other compounds known to greatly inhibit disease development. For example, Regalia will cause a plant to produce more phenolic and pathogenesis-related (PR) protein compounds which are known to fight pathogens that infect plants. Additionally, Regalia causes an increase in the production of phytoalexins, the ‘antibiotics’ produced by a plant under attack, which act as toxins to the attacking organism.

Incorporating Regalia into existing fungal and bacterial control programs provides a novel mode of action to aid in the prevention of resistance to any singular active ingredient.  Regalia can be used in rotation or as a tank mix partner with most commercially available fungicides.

When applied to actively growing plants, Regalia makes the treated leaf area resistant to certain plant diseases. It also results in greener, healthier, more vigorous plants. Regalia is labeled for use on many food and ornamental crops including: tomatoes, peppers, leafy greens, cucurbits, grapes, strawberries, blueberries, walnuts, citrus, and others.

According to the label, Regalia is recommended for use as a preventative treatment and should be applied prior to disease infestation to protect the growing leaf tissue. For ground applications, the general use rate is as follows (see application rates for selected crops for additional details):

  1. When used alone, apply at the rate of 2-4 quarts of Regalia (0.5-1.0 % v/v) in 50 to 100 gallons of water per acre.
  2. When used in a tank mix or rotational program with other fungicides, apply at the rate of 1-4 quarts of Regalia in 50 to 100 gallons of water per acre.
  3. Use higher water volumes with larger sized crops and extensive foliage to secure thorough coverage.
  4. Regalia has a re-entry interval (REI) of 4 hours and a pre-harvest interval (PHI) of 0 days.

This product is a micro-emulsion concentrate consisting of liquid and solid portions of the plant extract of Giant Knotweed. Both portions are important for the induction of resistance in treated leaf tissue. Some of these ingredients may settle out after standing for an extended time, therefore, the product should be shaken prior to use.

For spraying applications, use 50-mesh nozzle screens or larger. Only the treated green tissues of plants are amenable to induced resistance, therefore coverage of foliage is important. Larger sized crops and foliage need larger volumes in order to secure thorough coverage.

Keep the agitators running if mechanical mixing is available when preparing the spray solution, Regalia can be tank mixed in the spray tank with other pesticides to enhance disease control. Regalia cannot be mixed with another product that has a prohibition against mixing. Use of the tank mix must be in accordance with the more restrictive label limitations and precautions.            

Do not combine Regalia with pesticides, adjuvants, or fertilizers if there has been no previous experience or use of the combination to show it is physically compatible, effective, and non-injurious under use conditions. Regalia is compatible with many commonly used pesticides, fertilizers, adjuvants and surfactants but has not been evaluated with all potential combinations. To ensure compatibility of the tank mix combinations, evaluate prior to use, as follows: Using a suitable container add the proportional amounts of product to water. Add wettable powders first, then water dispersible granules, then liquid flowables, then emulsifiable concentrates. Mix thoroughly and let stand for at least five minutes. If the combination stays mixed or can be remixed, it is physically compatible. Test the mix on a small portion of the crop to be treated to ensure that a phytotoxic response will not occur as a result of the application.

Use on Edible Crops 
Regalia used as specified will induce the natural defense system of treated plants and help prevent crop loss and reduced crop quality caused by disease.

Use Regalia on grapes as an early-season and mid-season treatment against powdery mildew (Uncinula necator), and gray mold (Botrytis cinerea). Regalia has a 0 day pre-harvest interval (PHI) and is an effective late-season treatment against botrytis bunch rot (Botrytis cinerea). The unique mode of action of Regalia, makes the product an important addition to pesticide resistance management programs. Regalia is a flexible program partner that is compatible with most plant protection products, and can be used in rotation or as a tank mix partner with most commercially available fungicides.

For maximum disease control, begin preventative applications when the first disease symptoms are visible. Repeat applications at berry growth and pre-harvest, depending on disease infestation level and environmental conditions. Additional treatments are recommended depending on crop growth and disease pressure. Repeat at 7 to 14 day intervals, depending on disease pressure. If using Regalia as a standalone treatment, repeat at 7 to 10 day intervals.

Regalia offers walnut growers an effective tool to prevent devastating crop loss caused by walnut blight. Copper resistance has been found in walnut orchards in the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys. Adding Regalia to copper improves control of walnut blight. When treated with Regalia, the defense system of walnut trees is triggered to defend against attacking diseases. This effective and unique mode of action makes Regalia an important tool, both for controlling walnut blight, and for managing resistance to copper in control programs. Regalia is rainfast in one hour.

For best results, use Regalia as a preventative treatment tank mixed with a labeled rate of copper fungicide. For maximum walnut blight control, begin applications as soon as there is susceptible leaf tissue present. Apply when 40 percent of the buds are at the “prayer” stage, and then at 7 to 10 day intervals to protect new shoots. Additional treatments are recommended depending on weather and disease pressure.

Use Regalia on leafy vegetable crops including lettuce, spinach, and others to control downy mildew (Bremia lactucae, peronospora spp.) and powdery mildew (Erysiphe cichoracearum). Apply Regalia preventatively and repeat applications at 7 to 14 day intervals. Regalia has a re-entry interval of 4 hours, and a pre-harvest interval of 0 days.  Additionally, Regalia is exempt from tolerance requirements in or on all food commoditities by the United States EPA.

Regalia can be used on cucurbits such as cantaloupe, muskmelon, watermelon, cucumber, pumpkin, and squash (including zucchini) to prevent powdery mildew (Sphaerotheca fuligines, Erysiphe cichoracerum), downy mildew (Pseudoperonospora cubensis), and gummy stem blight (Didymella bryoniae). Apply Regalia preventatively when the first disease symptoms are visible. Repeat applications in 7 to 14 day intervals depending upon crop growth and disease pressure. When greenhouse cucurbits are under high disease conditions, use the shorter spray interval. Under high disease pressure, use Regalia in a tank mix or rotational program with another fungicide.  Regalia has been shown to synergize certain classes of fungicides, including demethylation inhibitors (DMIs), for superior control of powdery mildew.  Regalia has a re-entry interval of 4 hours and a 0 day pre-harvest interval.

To control mummy berry (Monilinia vaccinii-corymbosi) on blueberries, initiate application at bud break stage of development. Apply Regalia preventatively at 7 to10 day intervals or as needed.  For best performance, tank mix Regalia with other fungicides registered for mummy berry control. To control powdery mildew (Sphaerotheca spp.) and suppress anthracnose on strawberries, apply Regalia in 50 to 100 gallons of water per acre at 7 to 14 day spray intervals as soon as first symptoms of disease appear. For best performance, tank mix Regalia with another registered fungicide

Regalia is labeled to control the following bacterial and fungal diseases on tomatoes and peppers: powdery mildew (Sphaerotheca spp., Leveillula taurica, and Erysiphe spp.), bacterial blight (Xanthomonas spp.), bacterial leaf spot (Xanthomonas spp.), bacterial speck (Pseudomonas syringae), target spot (Corynespora cassiicola), gray mold (Botrytis cinerea), tomato late blight (Phytophthora infestans) and early blight of tomato (Alternaria solani). Apply Regalia preventatively in 50 to 100 gallons of water per acre. Repeat applications at 7 to 10 day intervals. Tank mix Regalia with other registered fungicides for improved disease control under heavy pressure.            

Use Regalia on citrus such as orange, grapefruit, lemon, tangerine, tangelo, and pummelo to control bacterial canker (Xanthomonas spp.) and greasy spot (Mycosphaerella citri). Apply Regalia preventatively in 50 to 100 gallons of water. For improved performance use Regalia in a tank mix or rotational program with other registered fungicides. Repeat applications at 7 to 14 day intervals.

Use on Ornamental Plants
The following plant species have been treated with Regalia, either for the purpose of rendering them more vigorous or to prevent disease: begonia, lisianthus, salvia, crape myrtle, petunia, snapdragon, freesia, poinsettia, zinnia, gerbera, and rose. The disease most prominently controlled is powdery mildew (Oidium spp.), but Regalia can also be used for treatment against gray mold (Botrytis cinerea) and rust (Puccinia antirrhini).  Additional diseases controlled by Regalia include black spot of rose (Diplocarpon rosae), leaf spots (Alternaria spp., Cercospora spp., Entomosporium spp., Myrothecium spp.,Septoria spp.), scab (Venturia spp.), and anthracnose (Collectotrichum spp.).

Begin applications preventatively (before disease symptoms become visible) at the 4 to 6 leaf stage and treat at 7 to 14 day intervals as needed prior to sale or harvest. Spray until just before point of runoff. Since it is not possible to test all ornamental species or varieties grown in the greenhouse, it is recommended that Regalia be tested on a few plants prior to large-scale usage. Do not use on gerbera and lisianthus plugs. Wait for two weeks after transplanting before use.

Regalia is compatible with multi-site, contact fungicides such as copper hydroxide; multi-site dithiocarbamates such as maneb and mancozeb; stobilurins such as pyraclostrobin and trifloxystrobin; demethylation inhibitors (DMIs) such as myclobutanil and triflumizole; and other classes of pesticide chemistry. If compatibility with another product is unknown, a jar test should be conducted.

The use of Regalia with conventional fungicides in an integrated disease management program has proven to be very satisfactory.  One of the major objectives has been to reduce the probability of disease resistance development to a particular active ingredient. The alternate use of Regalia (one to two sprays) followed by one to two sprays of a conventional, registered fungicide has been successfully used in many crops. In addition, the uses of tank mixes with a conventional fungicide have been successful. Follow label instructions of the particular registered product, not to exceed amounts or treatment intervals as recommended on the label.

The Regalia label lists the following limitations, and storage and disposal requirements:

  1. Do not contaminate water, food, or feed by storage or disposal.
  2. Store in a cool, dry place. Avoid freezing.
  3. Applicators and other handlers must wear long-sleeved shirt and long pants; shoes and socks; waterproof gloves; and protective eyewear.

Biopesticides or natural pesticides are reduced-risk products derived or developed from biological or naturally derived chemistry. Biopesticides offer value to users by providing a combination of both effective performance and product safety. Biopesticides perform efficaciously while providing the flexibility of minimum application restrictions, superior residue and resistance management potential, and human and environmental safety benefits.

Some of the unique features and benefits of biopesticides include:

  • the ability to provide alternative modes of action to traditional products which makes them a critical component in most IPM programs;
  • registration in less time than conventional chemical products because biopesticides exhibit minimal impact on the environment and humans;
  • the ability to extend the life of conventional chemicals by providing resistance management benefits in agricultural programs;
  • exemption from tolerances, such as reduced preharvest restrictions and application in environmentally sensitive areas, which permits biopesticides that have no Maximum Residue Levels (MRLs) to be used on crops intended for export and in urban settings;
  • a high degree of worker safety and the shortest reentry intervals allowed by law;
  • value-added benefits, such as improved plant health, yields and quality and an increase in beneficials, in both traditional and organic cultivation programs.

Biopesticides can be used in almost any crop production program because of they offer unique modes of action and have low impact on the environment and human health. They are especially suited for use in:

  • Rotation with chemicals in traditional programs to manage for pesticide resistance.
  • Certified organic production systems.
  • Grower programs where pesticide residue management is important for harvest management and/or export markets.
  • Crops with intensive labor demands to gain maximum flexibility in managing work crews.

In order for growers, applicators and pest control advisors to recognize the full potential of biopesticides, education is critical to ensure their proper use. Users must work closely with manufacturer’s representatives and/or the product’s dealer/distributor to determine the proper application timing and frequency; the most effective application methods to ensure complete crop coverage; target pest identification; and pest/disease pressure and life cycle dynamics.

Because the mode of action of a biopesticide is different from that of a conventional pesticide, the way to determine the product’s effectiveness is also different. The best way to measure the effectiveness of a biopesticide product is not only through field performance trials that measure number of pests or amount of leaf spots, but through marketable yield and quality of the edible or final product.

Marketable yield should be one of the most important measures of performance of a product used on fruit, vegetable and nut crops. However, the level of pest or disease control is usually the standard of the measure for determining product effectiveness that is used in performance trials. In a standard performance trial in which a stand-alone biopesticide product is compared strictly to a conventional chemical to determine disease/pest control effectiveness, the chemically treated plot may show fewer pests or leaf spots per plot than the plot treated with a biopesticide product. While the biopesticide trial plots may have higher incidences of diseases or pests than conventionally treated plots, the use of biopesticides often increases marketable yield by working synergistically with chemical pesticides to enhance control, by permitting timely reentry intervals and by the ability to be used close to harvest. Therefore, it is important to test and evaluate biopesticides based on trials that are true reflections of grower practices and programs. Stand-alone university trials are useful to gauge the performance of a product but growers rarely use pesticides stand alone. Therefore, it is critical to incorporate biopesticides into trials and programs in which biopesticides, like conventional pesticides, are tank mixed and rotated.

Such trials are a key component to the development of products from ProFarm and other biopesticide companies. The product discovery and development process begins, however, when the company finds new microorganisms isolated from samples collected in unique niches and habitats, like flowers, insects, bark, composts, etc., from around the world.

This approach to natural product discovery is well validated. Drug companies have been finding and commercializing new drugs derived from natural sources (plants and microorganisms), for decades. Such drugs include antibiotics (streptomycin, penicillin, etc.), taxol from the Pacific Yew for cancer treatment, aspirin from a similar compound in willow bark, digitalis and quinine.

While more than 50 percent of human drugs are from natural sources, only 11 percent of pesticides are derived from natural sources. Examples are spinosad insecticide from Dow and avermectin miticide from Syngenta, purified compounds fermented from different microorganisms, Bacillus thuringiensis insecticides from Valent Bioscience and Certis USA, and Bacillus subtilis and B. pumilus biofungicides by AgraQuest marketed as Serenade®, Rhapsody®, Sonata® and Ballad®.

At ProFarm, soil and other natural samples are collected; microorganisms are isolated on Petri dishes; then put through a screening process to test against insects, mites, plant pathogens, nematodes and weeds. These naturally occurring microorganisms are screened to identify those that may have novel and effective pest management characteristics. Natural product chemistry is employed to analyze and characterize the compound structures produced by selected microorganisms, to ensure there are no toxins, and to identify product candidates for further development and commercialization. Through an efficient process of lab and field testing, fermentation process development, scale-up and formulation, ProFarm develops the isolates into pest-control products in approximately three years at a cost of approximately $3 million. The development of a new, conventional pesticide, by contrast, may cost at least $180 million and take more than 10 years to discover and develop.

ProFarm also finds interesting plants and extracts their pesticidal chemistry. These plant extracts are tested against a range of pests, plant pathogens and weeds.

ProFarm’s products, like all biopesticides, require approval from the EPA, which includes toxicological testing against nontarget organisms (rat for acute oral, dermal and inhalation, guinea pig for skin sensitivity, rabbit for eye irrigation, fish, bird, Daphnia, honeybee, lacewing, ladybeetle, and parasitic wasp) to prove their safety. The time for approval is 12 months for ornamentals and turf (nonfood crops) and 18 months for food crops, as governed by the Pesticide Registration Improvement Act (PRIA).

ProFarm is finding success in the area of biopesticide development, due in part, to the reduced cost and development time; the fact that consumers are driving the market toward natural products; and the company’s extensive knowledge in how to optimize natural compounds derived from microbes and plants.

ProFarm has several new products in development, including:

  • a microbial insecticide for control of sucking and chewing insects;
  • a product, based on a bacterial strain of Pseudomonas fluorescens that selectively kills invasive zebra and quagga mussels;
  • a rice herbicide derived from a marine bacterium; and
  • a systemic organic herbicide based on bacteria and fungal natural products.