Sep. 27, 2017
The fall-out from last year's decision by the UK to withdraw from the European Union continues to bring unparalleled uncertainty to biopesticide industry across the UK and deep concern especially in research and development.
The situation is not clearer now than it was 12 months ago, and early negotiations between our Government and Europe have only increased fears for the future, fears that our niche market may shrink to the smaller UK market alone. Further, there are concerns that potential European clients will avoid the additional expenditure on our services and seek other cheaper alternatives.
Furthermore, funding for our growing company - which has benefitted from EU support - is potentially at risk, and we are still unsure as up to what extent the impact will be on a raft of important cash support measures which we have, and those which we were expecting to receive.
The de-regulation of chemical insecticides is also another factor which has the potential to affect this currently increasing market. Will the EU's championing of more natural methods of horticulture be taken on board by whatever regulations future trade agreements require? No one knows for sure, and everything could change.
Our expectation has been of greater restrictions across the EU on the use of potentially dangerous chemical pesticides - and with that an increased incentive for farmers and growers to switch to biopesticide products.
But we have already seen de-regulation and the continuation of the use of chemicals, which can cause damage to the environment and beneficial insects, potentially impacting on human health and on health of the soil itself. Warning enough surely to ensure swift measures to reduce the risk.
Biopesticides have been looked at skeptically by growers across the horticultural sectors in the past, being seen as a more expensive option, less reliable and more time consuming to deliver on the ground. However, we are seeing many pests becoming resistant to several 'traditional' chemical insecticides, and there is urgent need for new bioinsecticide products which will fill the market gap and help maintain, or even increase, productivity.
But such are the results that Bionema is achieving in recent field trials, and with the launch of our several commercial range of products for both professional and home and garden that we're confident that whilst Brexit has impacted on our immediate future, the long term still offers real opportunities for innovators like ourselves, developing new products that will be real game-changers in the biopesticide sector.
But what will the impact be on getting our products, currently at various different stages of development, to market? How will we register new bioinsecticide products for crop pest control, and with whom? And what will be the new requirements, if any? Which zones will we be pitching for? And will the process take even longer and be more costly? All questions that are still unanswered by our politicians
We do know that the cost of imported food - which the UK relies upon - is going up as the value of the Pound dips against both the Euro and Dollar. It opens new opportunities for out local growers and horticulturalists as their produce looks cheaper, but only if they can get the crops to market - many foreign workers, relied upon for picking, are returning home because they feel alienated by a country which appears to not welcome them.
So, productivity is going to be key going forward, keeping costs down, and getting better kill rates on the field and in the greenhouse to reduce crop damage by harmful insects - which is where our new products can come in.
However, the UK is a tiny market and our aim is to become key players on the world stage, with facilities already operating in India, Africa and potentially now in USA. What this means is that our development costs are likely to rise, at the same time as important financial aid may well be cut.
We have developed NemaTrident, a unique three components solution for insect pest control in agriculture, horticulture, forestry and turf amenity, all seven-unique solution demonstrating great promise. And we now provide training programmes to help users of biopesticide to maximise the effectiveness of these natural products which do require need special care. Used correctly, and they are even more effective than traditional products.
For example, forest trials we conducted in Wales using different nematode combined with soil conditioner for the control of large pine weevil (Hylobius abietis) in felled Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis), which causes more than £150 million damage to the EU forest industry.
Current control practice for this pest is the use of beneficial nematodes, but to date, S. carpocapsae is the only species that has been used against pine weevil control in Sitka spruce and Scots pine in UK and EU, results were inconsistent under field conditions, especially in forests, and there is an urgent need to find virulent nematodes or modelling the nematodes for better performance with the use of best methods of application.
Bionema conducted trials with different nematode species and soil conditioner. Our lab results demonstrated that certain wetting agents or soil conditioner are compatible with different nematode species and can increase nematode movement in soil or plant growing media and aid in quick dispersal (unpublished data). Nematodes need a film of water to move between the bark or in soil and the cambium sensing host cues in order to hunt down insects. The correct soil conditioner helps facilitate this.
The trial, in Tywi North forest, Mid Wales, compared the efficacy of commercially available products to the new, still in development, products designed here at Bionema and the importance of proper storage and application of biological pesticides in order to maximize effectiveness.
It is true that in the past kill rates have been variable, due to various factors, but our results showed that NemaTrident®-T and NemaTrident®-CT provide >90% control compared to only 50-70% in the currently used product.
NemaTrident-CT gave an astonishing 97% control. Other products available on the market gave lower than 50% control, although it should be noted that the NemaTrident-CT results were achieved by good nematode quality and careful application. In comparison, the unsatisfactory application methods currently used coupled to poor quality of nematode products would result in lower levels of control than seen in this trial.
In particular, our latest innovation provided better control than existing products and is looking particularly promising with the trial demonstrating that nematodes applied with soil conditioners provides excellent results.
The protocols for use and delivery of nematodes are critical, and that is why our new biopesticide application training programmes are becoming increasingly popular among the crop protection community. The control programme starts by ensuring products come from reputable firms, that they are kept in the best conditions, ensures that they are alive and then delivered promptly in the field. Some of our recent quality tests showed more than 50% mortality straight from the packaging!
Other simple procedures can further improve performance, as can paying additional care during application, checking for the best weather conditions, ensuring the irrigation systems and delivery mechanisms crops are correct. Attention to the detail is the key of success.
So, Brexit has set us a whole new raft of potential challenges, but at Bionema we believe that there is still a bright future for biopesticide markets. They are the way forward. The use of natural pesticides can play a key role in maintaining environmental sustainability for future generations.
After more than 20 years of research we can now see real strides forward in the efficacy of natural control. We have a deeper understanding of the properties of the different agents and how they interact together to create a single product that can be as effective as 'mainstream' pest control.
And we're still working at creating further developments of our products to control major horticultural insect pests (such as thrips, whitefly, aphid, vine weevil, spider mites, etc.) that are causing losses amounting to billions of Pounds to the horticultural industry. Similarly, a combination of the right nematodes with the right soil conditioner are being launched for the control of a number of soil living pests such as chafers, cutworms, wireworms, leatherjackets, codling moths weevils opening up new markets for nematode products in recreation and golf courses.
We're dedicated to making that happen, we know we have made real strides forward in the development of new products which we believe will be world beaters and committed to see it through despite the additional hurdles that have been put in our way.
And that’s exactly what we’ll continue to do…