Editor’s Note: This is Part 2 of a two-part article about new biorational products for crop protection. Find Part 1 of the article here.

The use of biological products has been around for hundreds of years, but working with natural organisms requires special techniques to ensure they remain alive and moving to their targets in the field. The products also must be compatible with the technologies that farmers use today. Over the last 10 years, however, the biological product industry has learned a great deal and is offering more products for potential use on corn and soybeans.

Natural insecticide

The first microbial bioinsecticide offered in 50 years was recently approved by the EPA. Grandevo is a broad-spectrum natural insecticide developed by Marrone Bio Innovations (MBI), Davis, Calif. It will first be marketed in Florida in citrus. MBI does not yet have data on corn and soybeans. “Future field trials will include pests like soybean aphid, wireworm and corn rootworm. We have good lab data that show 100% kill of corn rootworm larvae,” says Pam Marrone, MBI’s CEO.

“Like its predecessor [Bacillus thuringiensis], we believe Grandevo has the potential to gain wide acceptance and become a standard insecticide in pest management programs,” reports Chris Hildreth, MIB senior vice president. 

More recently, MBI received significant label expansion for Regalia biofungicide, which won Agrow’s Best New Biopesticide in 2010. Agrow, a leading information provider based in the U.K., presents the awards to significant technologies in global crop protection.

The label expansion includes new soil applications, instructions for yield improvement in corn and soybeans, along with additional crops and target pathogens. Growers can make foliar applications to soybeans and corn. The expanded label covers Rhizoctonia, Pythium, Phytophthora and Fusarium.

Regalia contains an active ingredient from the extract of Reynoutria sachalinensis (giant knotweed). It switches on plants’ natural defense mechanisms, causing them to produce higher levels of natural proteins and other compounds to inhibit disease development.

MBI signed a distribution agreement with Syngenta for Regalia on specialty crops in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The company also signed an agreement with FMC for distribution in Latin America.

Other products in MBI’s pipeline are an insecticide with row-crop applications for caterpillars and sucking insects and an herbicide for preemergence and selective postemergence weed control.

Biofungicides

Another company working in the biological products arena is AgraQuest, Inc., Davis, Calif. One of the company’s products, Serenade Soil, will eventually be introduced into cereals and soybeans. Serenade Soil won a 2011 Agro awards for best new biopesticide. It has been widely adopted by U.S. potato producers for control of Rhizoctonia, Phytophthora and common scab.

When the product is introduced into cereals and soybeans, growers will be able to apply it with a variety of fertilizers and herbicides, reports Sarah Reiter, global marketing director, AgraQuest. Beneficial bacteria survive on the plant’s root and help contribute to higher crop yields. In tests across several crops, the biofungicide helps boost yield per acre from 2% up to 8%.

In addition, AgraQuest has developed Ballad Plus, a biofungicide for row crops like soybeans, corn and wheat. This biofungicide delivers consistent yield gains when mixed with strobilurin and several other fungicides, Reiter says.

Last fall, AgraQuest and DuPont announced they are working together on a biofungicide that contains Bacillus pumilus. The product is being developed to control Sclerotinia and other diseases of oilseed rape.

Reiter adds that AgraQuest aims to launch five new active ingredients over the next five years that will be the basis for fungicides and insecticides.

Syngenta has made recent investments in biorational product research. Last year Syngenta entered into a global technology partnership with Pasteuria Bioscience, a U.S.-based company specializing in nematode control. The companies will develop bionematicides based on Pasteuria species. This group of bacteria controls nematodes across a broad variety of crops.