Usted puede encontrar la versión en español de este artículo aquí. 'El mercado de biodefensa vive su mejor momento en Brasil'
By Christina Xie and Leonardo Gottems, reporters of AgroPages
Data from the Brazilian Association of Biological Control Companies (ABCBio) indicates that 2018 registered a 77% growth in the sales of biological pesticides, jumping from R$262.4 million in 2017 to R$464.5 million in 2018. Another figure from the Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food Supply (MAPA) reveals that no less than 52 new biopesticide products were registered in Brazil last year. Compared to 2017, there was a 30% increase over the 40 products registered that year, making a record in the history.
"The biodefense market is living its best moments in Brazil," said Amália Piazentim Borsari, executive director of ABCBio. “Since the first regulation of biodefensive products in 2006, today, we are at the best moment, with more than 215 products registered, with close to 40 biological assets controlling various pests and agricultural diseases. The latest product launches in 2017 and 2018, and the industry's large technology presence in the field, have resulted in the market value increasing by an average of over 70% in 2018, compared to 2017.”
According to Borsari, the adoption of bio-solutions by farmers is increasing due to more coordinated actions by the industry and more support and technical assistance offered by it. Another factor explaining the excellent sales performance in 2018 was an increase in the launch of innovative products by the biological control industries. “The existence of an overwhelming demand for new crop protection solutions that has less impact on humans and the environment is another factor that drives this growth,” added Borsari.
More Effort Needed to Improve Adoption
A survey conducted by ABCBio in the 2017/2018 harvest to more than 1,700 farmers from all over the country, showed that 46% of rural producers said they did not know what biodefense was. On the other hand, the acceptance of this input by those who already use it is enormous, since 98% of respondents who have already used the biological defensive said that they intend to use it in future harvests as well.
In an interview with Jaqueline Antonio, Communication and Marketing Manager of Koppert do Brasil, it was revealed although 39% of Brazilian farmers use organic products in some areas of their plantations, 57% say they do not know how to use biodefense.
Antonio said Koppert launched a new web portal this year, aiming to share the knowledge that it has gathered in the last 50 years with researchers, clients, suppliers and collaborators. Integrated pest and disease management, and biological control need to become well known to Brazilian producers to make agriculture healthier and sustainable, as well as productive and profitable.
“Our plan is to reduce this margin of ignorance (57%) by providing information about biological control tools and focus on increasing the portfolio of biological products to meet the demands in the field,” added Antonio.
Innovation Springing Up in the Market
A favorable policy, market environment and the strong need from farmers together boost the research and introduction of new biodefensive products to the market, especially solutions against destructive pests in crops.
One of the most common pests in Brazil is the cotton bollworm (Helicoverpa armigera). Biologist Sérgio Abud, supervisor of the Embrapa Cerrados technology transfer area noted that biological control is the best tool for sustainable agricultural production in the economic and environmental sense. "Based on the experience we had with Helicoverpa armigera, the practice has grown a lot in Brazil, and has been gaining the confidence of the producers," he pointed out.
Brazilian Agricultural Research Company (Embrapa) never stops their research on new bio-solutions for the control of this caterpillar. Research developed by Embrapa Meio Ambiente used weed extracts as insecticides. They evaluated the extracts of the plant species, Flaming Glorybower (Clerodendrum splendens), Horseweed (Conyza canadensis), Mexican sunflower (Tithonia diversifolia) and Vernonanthura westiniana. The results pointed to a surprising insecticidal effect of these four plants on the control of the Helicoverpa armigera.
The discovery offers hope against a serious problem faced by conventional agriculture: the resistance of insects to current agrochemicals. Even transgenic plants with Bacillus thuringiensis (Cry1Ac) have displayed the first signs that they may lose their protection against caterpillars, since hybrid insects are emerging from the cross between Helicoverpa armigera and Helicoverpa zea that attacked genetically modified soybeans in Brazil.
Last year, AgBiTech Brasil registered biological insecticide Surtivo Soja, for the control of caterpillars, Helicoverpa armigera and Chrysodeixis, in Brazil. According to the company, Surtivo Soja is the first pre-mixture of baculovirus for the biological control of caterpillars.
In 2019, Brazilian company, Sinagro Group, partnered with AgBiTech to bring to Brazil an innovative portfolio for farmers to control the Helicoverpa armigera. AgBiTech Director for Latin America, Adriano Vilas Boas, affirmed that the multinational company combines its long experience in the field, scientific innovation and technological development. "AgBiTech’s baculovirus performed surprisingly well during critical periods of agriculture in that country, where caterpillars such as Helicoverpa armigera carried the risk of collapse. We are bringing to the Brazilian farmer these positive indicators in the management of caterpillars, in addition to a positive cost-benefit relationship," he said.
Currently, the bioinsecticides market for caterpillar control accounts for less than 1% of the US$900 million annual insecticide segment. Industry projections indicate, however, that in a period of up to 10 years, the share of biological insecticides will reach 20% of the revenue, close to US$150 million.
Embrapa has also been working on developing new biopesticides to combat another widespread pest in Brazil, fall armyworms (Spodoptera frugiperda). This year, another novelty comes to the market, the bioinsecticide, VirControl S.f. [Baculovirus Spodoptera frugiperda multiple nucleopolyhedrovirus (SfMNPV)], developed in partnership with the company, Simbiose, which was launched in April. For the 2019/2020 season, the BaculoMIP-Sf bioinseticide, made with another Baculovirus strain, will also be marketed, in partnership with Embrapa and Promip.
"Baculoviruses are biological control agents that do not harm the health of applicators, do not kill natural enemies of pests, do not contaminate the environment, or leave residues in the products to be sold in supermarket shelves," noted researcher, Fernando Valicente.
Valicente pointed out that the safety of Baculovirus insecticides, combined with the ease of handling, makes these products one of the best biological control agents available to farmers.
Nufarm also launched a biological insecticide, XenTari, to control fall armyworms, which has already achieved good results. Alexandre Manzini, insecticide manager of Nufarm Brazil, told AgroPages in an interview that XenTari® is a biological insecticide based on Bacillus thuringiensis aizawai at a concentration of 540 grams/kg and superior protein profile when it is applied to Spodoptera spp., because it has the proteins Cry1Aa, Cry1Ab, Cry1C, Cry1D, spores and Vip3A protein in its composition. It is a product of high efficacy and selectivity, with a low environmental impact, that presents a superior performance in caterpillars that are difficult to control, such as Spodoptera spp. XenTari® is ideal for use in Integrated Pest Management (IPM).
Despite the bright future of the market, the Brazilian biodefense industry still faces some challenges. According to Borsari from ABCBio, one challenge is the high cost of investment required for research and development of formulations that ensure the survival of biological assets in inhospitable temperature conditions, as well as the development of formulations that ensure compatibility with other agricultural products. The lack of professionals specialized in biodefense, and the ignorance about the technology by the rural producer, are other factors limiting expansion. It is important to highlight the use of a biological product, which requires more improved techniques in pest and disease management, and investment in monitoring tools. This may seem like an additional cost, but in the end, results will be guaranteed.
“ABCBio has been working on some actions, such as the development of guidelines for good manufacturing practices, ensuring that all companies guarantee the highest level of quality standards. Increasing sector regulation ensures legal certainty and a return on investment with research, and we are working hard on it. We also expect a differentiated look and a growing attention to this segment, which guarantees innovative, sustainable and efficient products and promise,” concluded Borsari.
This story was initially published in AgroPages '2019 Latin America Focus' magazine. Download the PDF version of the magazine to read more stories.