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‘Biologicals ask for a change in legislation’

Opennatur is a Spain-based company, commercialising, among other products, synthetic pheromones that attract pest insects in fruits, vegetables and also in forestry. ‘Within the BIOCOMES-consortium, we’re one of the relatively smaller companies’, CEO Victor Perdrix says. ‘That makes the collaboration within this consortium extra valuable for us.’

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Academic cooperation

At it’s foundation in 2000, Opennatur already had a strong collaboration with Wageningen University and Research Centre. ‘They produced and possessed one of the biggest international banks of synthetic insect pheromones. Together with the colleagues in Wageningen, we were able to select a number of very specific pheromones that attract selected species of pest insects.’

Monitor, disrupt and trap

The pheromones are used in traps as a monitoring tool, as a means to disrupt the reproduction of pest insects, and also to mass trap insects like the Mediterranean fruit fly Ceratitis capitata. The company also distributes pheromones that specifically attract pest insects in forestry, such as the pine shoot beetle Tomicus piniperda.

Part in a chain of products

Perdrix stresses that pheromones are a valuable addition in a longer chain of products in Integrated Pest Management against pest insects. ‘We are constantly looking for cooperation with other companies in the consortium that address different stages in the life cycle of insects. For example, in the BIOCOMES consortium we are working together with the Catalonian Institute for Food and Agricultural Research and Technology, to develop a strategy based on Penicillium frequentans and Bacillus subtilis to control Monilinia, the brown rot, in stone fruit. With the German partner e-Nema we are looking for nematodes that can attack caterpillars.’

Market knowledge

Being a relatively small company, Opennatur benefits from the international market knowledge that is available within the BIOCOMES-consortium, Perdrix says. ‘Within Spain, we directly communicate with a lot of farmers, to help them switch to biological control whenever that is possible. The international companies, universities and institutions in the consortium help us to gain insight in the international developments as well.’

Legislation

One of the more important obstacles at this point in the development of Integrated Pest Management is legislation, Perdrix says. ‘The consumers demand more and more biological products. The knowledge is also available. What we need is acknowledgement by the European legislators that biological products, such as pheromones, are a different category of pesticides compared to the traditional synthetic products. That difference calls for different laws too. It makes no sense that biological products have to fulfil the same legal requirements like mass produced synthetic agents. The companies and institutions within BIOCOMES can strengthen each other in that lobby too.’

Nectarine in the field infected by Monilinia (Picture: Opennatur)

Author

Victor Perdrix
Victor Perdrix
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