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The key role of biopesticides in the agricultural transition

In a world facing unprecedented challenges, the need for sustainable and resilient agriculture has never been more crucial. With a growing population and limited resources, innovative technologies hold the key to unlocking the full potential of our agricultural practices.

The Sustainable Use of Pesticides Regulation (SUR) is currently discussing the best ways to address pesticide use and risk. This is an opportunity to talk about all innovative technologies that can help in the implementation of this regulation. I am certain that one of the ways to achieve Farm to Fork goals is unlocking the potential of biopesticides.

What are biopesticides? And why are they important?

Biopesticides are derived from animals, plants, bacteria, or minerals, they offer numerous benefits. They can be safer for non-target organisms and the environment, break down rapidly and provide precise targeting against specific pests, weeds, or diseases. We have seen the European Parliament report rightly acknowledges benefits of biopesticides. It’s not about saying goodbye to classic pesticides and replacing them all with biopesticides. It’s all about using the right tools for the right crops. But more importantly having access to these tools. All types of solution have a role to play, and it’s really through the different combination of tools farmers can achieve the optimal results.

Biopesticides are just one piece of the puzzle in achieving sustainable and effective pest management. Integrated pest management (IPM) is a holistic approach that combines various methods for pest control, including biopesticides, digital and precision agricultural tools or pesticides to create a long-term and sustainable solution. IPM involves understanding the biology of pests, monitoring their populations, and implementing preventive measures before resorting to any pest control method. This approach minimizes the use of inputs and promotes biodiversity in agricultural systems.

What is the reality for farmers at the moment?

While some have been in use for years, others are still being developed as we speak.

Let’s focus on the options in the first bucket – those available. Have you heard of pheromones or microorganisms based biopesticides?

For example, pheromones used in vineyards or orchards can confuse target pest males and make them unable to locate females, hindering their ability to mate and ultimately preventing the next generation from emerging.

On the other hand, microorganisms like bacteria have long been responsible for providing us with delicious bread, cheese, yogurt, wine, and chocolate. Now, we can harness their power in the world of agriculture. Bacteria-based biopesticides work by colonising the host’s surface, producing toxins that kill pests or boost plant immunity. They also help to outcompete harmful pathogens, providing a natural and sustainable alternative to traditional chemical pesticides.

The role of biopesticides in the agricultural transition

Biopesticides can play an essential role in further promoting sustainable agriculture and reducing our reliance on only one way to protect crops. However, as with any type of innovation sometimes we see it outpacing the development of dedicated regulatory pathways and European farmers fall victim of it. For instance, we currently don’t have a way for registering novel types of biochemicals which takes into account their specificities. With this in mind, it’s essential that we continue to invest in research and development, streamline the regulatory process and future-proof regulations to ensure that farmers have access to these new solutions.

The SUR has taken steps towards acknowledging the importance of biopesticides. By suggesting a clear definition on biocontrol, it makes a positive step. Now, the next crucial task is to garner the support and trust of policymakers in establishing a more dedicated regulatory pathway for novel biopesticides under the pesticide authorisation framework. This will guarantee that farmers have the necessary and timely access to these tools.

The development of biopesticides is an exciting and promising area in agriculture. It is becoming a fundamental part of our toolbox. With the support of policies, regulations like SUR, developments in digital and precision agriculture, or on new genomic techniques, we can promote the role of different technologies that form part of protecting crops from pests and diseases. We are invested and see great opportunities in this area.


This article was originally published on LinkedIn authored by Laurent Oger.