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Progress of Biopesticide Industrialization in Chinaqrcode

Jan. 27, 2022

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Jan. 27, 2022

Biopesticides, which come from natural products or live organisms, are compounds, extractives or live organisms with specific functions, such as preventing and controlling agricultural diseases, pests and weeds, as well as crop growth regulation. Different from traditional chemical pesticides, biopesticides, with properties such as rapid degradation in nature, more targeted applications and less toxicity, offer various advantages, such as the low probability of drug resistance in target organisms, safety during use and zero residues.


Classification of biopesticides


Biopesticides differ greatly from traditional chemical pesticides in certain aspects, such as physicochemical properties, mechanisms of action and evaluation criteria, which pose challenges to the registration assessments of countries around the world, especially for developing countries. Major differences exist in terms of classification and management of biopesticides among major countries and organizations, such as China, the US, the EU, the FAO and OECD. According to Announcement No. 2569 of the Ministry of Agriculture of the People’s Republic of China (Requirements for the Pesticide Registration Materials), biopesticides are categorized into biochemical pesticides, microbial pesticides and botanical pesticides. Biochemical pesticides are generally defined as natural compounds with induction or regulation functions, or those synthetic substances with the same structure as natural compounds. Microbial pesticides refer to insecticides whose effective components originate from bacteria, fungi, viruses, protozoa metabolites and living organisms. As for botanical pesticides, their effective components come directly from plants. Biopesticides can also be divided into acaricides, insecticides, herbicides, fungicides and plant growth regulators in terms of varieties.


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Status quo of the biopesticide industry


Data released by the National Bureau of Statistics of China showed that microbial pesticides retain total dominance domestically, accounting for nearly 70%, followed by biochemical pesticides with around 20%, and botanical pesticides with just 10%. However, the compound growth rate of botanical pesticides remained relatively high in recent years. Despite this, chemical pesticides still dominate biopesticides with a share of 90% of the plant protection market.


The underlying reasons for the small market share of biopesticides are as follows: shorter lasting time and poor stability; lack of expert teams in terms of biopesticide R&D; relatively low industrial conversion rates, and insufficient biopesticide R&D funds; core technologies generally face higher risks of failure and the R&D cycle usually ranges from 15 to 20 years, therefore, requiring expert talents and capital reserves; compared with foreign pesticide companies, domestic equivalents are being left behind in terms of R&D, salaries and incentives, and are, therefore, unable to avoid the problem of brain drain; fewer biopesticide R&D and varieties characterized by a low level of repetitive development and severe homogeneity; ineffective protection of patents, as Chinese biopesticide varieties are prone to plagiarism, there is insufficient R&D motivation enthusiasm enterprises.


Biopesticide manufacturing and development trends


With increasingly close international exchanges and cooperation, the influence of “Made-in-China” in the domestic and foreign biopesticide market has become pivotal. Bio-manufacturing is a new type of interdisciplinary science integrating modern biotechnology into the field of production and manufacturing, to produce substances with specific functional activities based on manufacturing technologies in related fields, as well as by combining biological theories, methods and advanced scientific research results, and utilizing advanced biomedical means and research methods, such as genetic engineering, cell engineering, enzyme engineering, fermentation engineering, metabolic engineering and synthetic biology. Keasling’s team employed synthetic biology to successfully synthesize the anti-malaria drug, “artemisia apiacea diene,” as early as 2003. Stephanopoulous’s team successfully synthesized the anticancer drug, taxadiene, in 2010. Jin’s team increased the activity of the phenazine (PCN) gene promoter to increase PCN fermentation temperature from 28°C to 37°C, as well as the fermentation titer by 179 times. Hairy root and crown gall tissue culture techniques were used to produce artemisinin, vinblastine and others. Large-scale plant cell culture techniques made industrialized production possible after decades of efforts, including coptisine, a product of coptis japonica cell culture, and digoxin, a product of digitalis lanata cell culture.


With the rapid development of biotechnology, its massive potential has attracted worldwide attention. So far, China has more than 250 registered varieties and over 120 manufacturers of live microbial pesticides, including bacillus thuringiensis, bacillus subtilis and bacillus cereus. As for microbial metabolites, there are more than 2,000 registered varieties and over 1,500 manufacturers, most notably abamectin, spinosad, jinggangmycin, and a series of plant growth regulators represented by gibberellin and coronatine. As for botanical pesticides, there are more than 300 registered varieties and over 200 manufacturers, primarily natural extracts, such as matrine, pyrethrin, veratridine and osthole, as well as a series of plant growth regulators represented by 14-hydroxylated brassinosteroid.


The application technology of microbial pesticides is relatively mature. Botanical pesticides have gradually formed a set of unique application systems due to their complex components, low toxicity and high cost. Based on the application philosophy of prevention treatment and combined with technology for reducing the use of traditional chemical pesticides and increasing efficiency, such application systems can minimize usage, lower the possibility of drug resistance in target organisms, and ensure food safety while controlling costs.


With the introduction and implementation of a series of national strategies, policies and regulations, such as “peak carbon emission and emission peak,” “double reduction to ease the burden of excessive homework and off-campus tutoring for students undergoing compulsory education,” and “environmental protection,” China’s biopesticide manufacturing enterprises are ushering in their heyday, with their imfluence constantly expanding. For example, Chengdu New Sun invented the biopesticide, “0.006% coronatine solution,” a type of small natural molecule synthesized from microorganisms using high-density fermentation and nanofiltration reverse extraction technologies. This biological pesticide can regulate crop growth and improve crop quality at very low concentrations, and can facilitate defoliation and weeding at high concentrations. The biopesticides similar to this product and already registered include abscisic acid and gibberellic acid.




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