Things have gone quickly for Biogard, technical director Massimo Benuzzi recalls. ‘Until recently, we were a relatively small player in the market for biological pest control. In 2012 we became part of the multinational CBC Europe. Now we are a major player in Italy and elsewhere in Europe, with for example eleven products that disrupt reproductive communication in harmful insects.’
For Benuzzi, the project BIOCOMES was a good opportunity to spar with European colleagues in the field. ‘With the others partners within BIOCOMES, we have very open, informal discussions on matters involving biopesticides and integrated pest management (IPM). Competition is not an issue here.’
Benuzzi: ‘Our company is involved in the work package concerning an antagonist that will be applied as a seed dressing in, amongst others, corn. This fungus evokes some sort of mild reaction in the plant, a bit comparable to vaccinations in humans and animals. The fungus makes the plant produce toxins that prevent the harmful fungus fusarium in infecting the crop.’
More than residues
Benuzzi is convinced that integrated pest management and biological control of pests are the future. ‘Too many people still focus on biological agents just as a means to avoid residues from synthetic agents. They are only encouraged to apply these biologicals in the last stages of a production cycle, close before harvesting. But biological control is more than that. For example, we apply our disruptive systems very early in a production cycle, before the first pest insects arrive. Biological control of pests requires a new way of thinking. To us it is, for example, obvious that you cannot combine a fungicide with a biological antagonist of fusarium that is a fungus itself. But in the field we can actually still see this practiced.’
Consumers make the difference
Today, synthetic agents are still relatively cheap, Benuzzi says. ‘But I do not doubt that synthetic pesticides will eventually be phased out. In the long run these products are expensive, both in future registration and in long term consequences. With the project BIOCOMES, the EU provides a good opportunity to develop more biological products that provide alternatives.’ Benuzzi does not think that European politicians need to actively influence the market for synthetic of biological pesticides. ‘In the long run, consumers are the best politicians. They are the ones who can make a choice to pay a little bit extra for fruits and vegetables that were protected by biological products. Together with the other partners within BIOCOMES we can be the frontliners in providing these biological alternatives.’
Consumers are the ones who can make a choice for fruits and vegetables that were protected by biological products.
Massimo Benuzzi leads the research on ‘Trichoderma harzianum DSM25764 seed treatment for control of Fusarium in cereals’ in the BIOCOMES project. More information about this research can be found in Fusarium spp.
Biogard is also partner in the research on the diseases Brown rot in fruit and Fungal root diseases in forestry and on the pests Tomato leaf miner and Potato moths.
Fusarium in cereals