The battle against pests seems never-ending, but innovative crop protection companies have long been hard at work on the issue. Recently, a trend has been developing that will bring new tools to bear on those pests you fight every day — and they’ll be biological.

The most recent news comes from FMC, which announced it has created a biological crop protection platform. The company purchased the Center for Agricultural and Environmental Biosolutions, a North Carolina-based division of RTI International, which specializes in scouting and screening for new microbes. In addition, FMC formed an alliance with Chr. Hansen, a biosciences company with expertise in cultures, enzymes and fermentation. The new strategic alliance enables FMC to compete in the multibillion-dollar biological crop protection market.

Under the arrangement, Chr. Hansen will provide scouting, screening, scale-up and fermentation manufacturing expertise, while FMC will provide scouting, screening, formulation capabilities, product development and registration experience, and global market access.

“The market has been dominated by synthetic chemistry,” says Mark Douglas, president of FMC. “And the cost to bring a synthetic product to market is more expensive all the time, and can take a decade or more. The risk-reward ratio is extreme.”

Turning to biologicals, which Douglas says should not be confused with “organic,” offers a shorter path from lab to market while also offering the market enhanced modes of action to control key pests. And, he explains, there’s a kind of synergy seen when biologicals and synthetic chemistry combine in the field.

This kind of market shift is occurring across several major players, from Bayer CropScience and Poncho/Votivo to the recent launch of Clariva by Syngenta Crop Protection for control of soybean cyst nematode. The active ingredient in Clariva is Pasteuria nishizawa, a bacteria that interrupts the life cycle of the nematode and eventually kills it. The bacteria remains in the soil throughout the season, too.