Data will play key role in use of new farming biopesticides

Tracking environmental conditions, such as humidity, temperature and light levels, is key to getting better control from biopesticides, according to the latest research.

Grace Emeny of AHDB
Grace Emeny of AHDB

With an increasing focus on reducing the use of synthetic agrochemicals in the fruit and vegetable and cropping sectors, the use of naturally occurring control methods such as biopesticides has been attracting more attention. Recent research, however, has shown that the effectiveness of these products - which are based on living micro-organisms or natural products - is highly dependent on a complex range of factors.

These range from temperature, the population of pest or disease present in the crop, through to the way in which the product is applied – and growers have been advised that in order to make the most of these products they need to collect data on the performance and effectiveness of the approach under a range of different conditions.

Those working on the project, which is funded by AHDB, are urging growers to collect data to build up their experience and knowledge to share with researchers and others in the sector

“Keeping a log of the environmental conditions in which biofungicides are applied to the crop and taking note of how well it controlled the disease is important data that will help growers gain experience and confidence in using these products,” said Grace Emeny, a knowledge exchange manager at AHDB.

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She said that research had shown that biofungicides could survive for different lengths of time, depending on the amount of disease present in the crop. The active ingredient in AQ10, a biofungicide used to manage powdery mildew, required the disease to be present in order to survive and control it:

“In contrast, the active ingredient in Prestop to control botrytis can survive without the host disease.”

David Chandler, Associate Professor at University of Warwick, said that biopesticides were “only getting more important” for sustainable integrated pest management:

“They can be more complex than conventional plant protection products, and it’s important that growers understand the many factors that can impact their effectiveness at controlling pests and diseases.

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“Timing your application based on knowledge of the factors that may impact biopesticide performance and using this with data about your environment to spray is so important to a successful control programme.”

The AHDB said that the five-year, £1.2 million project has been designed to help growers make the best of their biopesticides.

*As the UK considers a new regulatory framework for pesticides following its exit from the EU, a briefing has been sent to MP’s which not only highlights some of the varying regulatory approaches adopted by different countries around the world but also outlines some of the potential health risks associated with pesticides.

Based on evidence from over 50 experts in the field, including Defra, and the devolved governments the briefing also looks at potential impacts and health risks associated with pesticide use, as well as issues which might arise if the UK deviates from its current alignment with EU regulations.

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