Pathogenic nematodes are responsible for $100 billion of crop losses each year, making them the single most damaging pest to agriculture world-wide. Nematodes, microscopic worms that cannot be seen with the naked eye, cause devastating damage to the roots of crops– from potatoes to roses, turf to pineapples. The need to protect these plant root systems is crucial to provide healthy crops and strong yields.
Based in the UK, Ecospray are an independent biopesticide company which has done just that. Its researchers have developed and registered an extract of garlic as a soil applied nematicide for use in a variety of crops, football pitches and golf courses. With registrations in 15 countries including the EU, Turkey, Israel, Morocco and Kenya, and with more in the pipeline, Ecospray is a key player in the global bionematicide industry.
“We have seen excellent growth in 2019 with the successful launch of Nemguard in Kenya through our distributor Dudutech, where it is registered for use as a nematicide on roses and green beans,” says Ecospray’s CEO Philip Charlton-Smith. “There has also been growth here in the UK both on crops such as carrots and potatoes as well as in our amenity business where over 85% of Premiership football grounds have been treated with EGC to control nematode damage.”
Ecospray products such as Nemguard and EGC are the only garlic based bionematicide with EU Annex 1 approval along with a number of Annex 3 finished product registrations. This comprehensive EU dossier has helped with obtaining registrations elsewhere, as studies for an EU approval are often considered thorough enough for approvals by other regulatory authorities. Unlike unregistered garlic compounds, Ecospray’s patented technology has enabled a stabilized form of garlic extract to be produced, providing effective, consistent results.
Whilst the focus has been on soil nematicide applications, research is ongoing with other soil pests such as leatherjackets. There are also incidental effects on some soil pathogens such as pythium and fusarium spp. These are often associated with nematode damage as the attack from the nematode allows entry to the fungal pathogen.
The current list of crops includes both protected and outdoor crops, such as carrots, potatoes, tomatoes cucumbers, peppers, roses and turf. Ongoing research into a number of other crops such as pineapples and macadamia nuts will see the list of crops increasing.
Today’s consumers are asking for more and more information about their food, how it is produced, where it is from and assurance that residues, for example, are not a concern. “With global population estimated to reach 9 billion by 2050,” says Philip, “the pressure is on for growers to produce enough food while also looking after the health of the land. Ecospray products can help with both these goals.”
Ecospray products have a zero residue profile and little impact on soil health, meaning growers and consumers can rest assured their crops are being produced in a sustainable manner. Sustainable production requires crop protection products that have little or no adverse impact on soil health and fertility.
“Too often the need to preserve the soil and the requirements of crop protection have been at opposite ends of a spectrum and seen as incompatible objectives,” says Dr Murree Groom, Technical Director for Ecospray. “We are able to help bridge that gap with our products, and provide growers with a sustainable solution for their toolbox.”
Research has demonstrated that use of Ecospray products on soils to suppress nematodes while enabling crop yield and quality does not have a long-term damaging effect on soil health. Beneficial nematodes (fungal and bacterial feeders) recover quickly due to their faster reproductive cycle compared to pathogenic nematodes, meaning they can get back to improving the soil soon after application. There are also beneficial impacts on soil microbes with research showing a modest increase in soil microbial activity following treatment.
Growers like to use Ecospray products as they are a designated zero residue compound meaning harvest intervals are not an issue – they do not have to wait for the product to break down before harvesting the crop as, after all, we eat garlic. Nematode resistance is also considered extremely unlikely due to the complex mode of action, making it an ideal part of a residue reduction/anti-resistance strategy. Nematicides such as Nemguard are increasingly being seen as products of choice for high value and specialty crops in both developed countries and those countries seeking to export to the developed ones.
Ecospray products are therefore an important component part of a soil health strategy – better, stronger root systems mean plants are better able to withstand stress from pest and disease attack as well stress from abiotic factors such as drought and flooding. Soils are more likely to be preserved thus aiding sustainability for the future.
These two factors will result in companies such as Ecospray growing exponentially over the next few years as they help lead change in many markets across the globe.