Global agrochemical giants are committed to offering innovations to support agricultural production and increase farmer’s earnings while reducing the environmental impact of agricultural practices. Innovative biologicals facilitate the control of pests, mitigate weather stress, improve soil health and fulfill consumer and regulatory requirements on product safety and environmental protection. This is why these multinationals are widely expanding their biologicals businesses. Distribution partnership is a significant approach for multinationals to add new products and build comprehensive biologicals portfolios.
Syngenta has achieved a significant increase in its sales of biological products, which grew from $122 million in 2020 to $312 million in 2021 pre-tax income, becoming Syngenta’s fastest growing segment among its plant protection portfolios. This strong growth was primarily attributed to the acquisition of Valagro in 2020, which brought the biologicals of Valagro into Syngenta’s portfolio. In addition, Syngenta is incorporating more biological products via distribution partnerships.
In 2021, UPL established the Natural Plant Protection (NPP) business unit in 2021 to provide sustainable biological solutions aimed at protecting crops and improving soil health and crop yield. Jim Petta (UPL Natural Plant Protection Head, North America) said, ″At the core of UPL’s OpenAg approach is our vision of true innovation, which is inspired by collaborations.″ Distribution partnership has expanded NPP’s portfolio while helping UPL solve problems for growers and societies around the world.
Corteva Agriscience’s biologicals business has also advanced rapidly, with its portfolio of biostimulants, biocontrol and pheromone products being constantly developed. Corteva views the provision of sustainable and innovative planting solutions as its core business, which aims to solve the issues facing current crop production.
Record-breaking high temperatures affect multiple regions, boost demand for heat/water stress-resistant products
According to the Global Drought Observatory Analytical Report released by the European Commission Joint Research Centre, 47% of Europe was in a state of warning and 17% was in a state of alert at start of August 2022. River water levels widely declined across Europe countries, and heat and water stresses severely reduced crop yields. Grain corn, soybean and sunflower were the most affected crops.
The United States and Canada also experienced prolonged heat wave in the summer of 2022. The National Integrated Drought Information System of NOAA reported the occurrence of record-high ″extreme″ and ″abnormal″ droughts for weeks, and 54.2% of the United State experienced abnormal drought.
A large area of southern China experienced record-high temperature in July and August 2022. In the Yangtze river basin, rainfall was 40% less than the same period in previous years. Crop production also substantially declined.
This year, more regions around the world experienced heat and drought, leading to increased demand for biostimulants that enhance plant resistance to such abiotic stress. These products have been included in the new distribution partnerships of multinationals.
In August 2022, Corteva Agriscience launched its first biostimulant in China. Made by Acadian Plant Health, the product, KINSIDRO®, is derived from Ascophyllum and contains bioactive substances. The product helps plants resist stress, through up-regulating their defense-related genes. It also modulates hormone signaling and keeps hormones active in plants. Its natural chelates facilitate nutrient uptake and enhance plant growth. The product helps farmers increase yield and income, and can be applied to a wide range of crops.
Moreover, Corteva announced a multi-year agreement to sell Elemental Enzymes’ Waterflux technology to growers around the world. This technology, offered by Corteva as products under the name, Sosdia™ Stress abiotic stress mitigator, provides plants with an optimized osmoprotectant blend. It contains natural proline, potassium and other compounds that protect plant cells, reduce water loss, improve stoma function and help plants cope with abiotic stresses, such as drought, heat, excessive salinity and sunlight, helping crops stay healthy and reducing energy loss for cell repair so plants can use more energy to grow and maintain yield. The product works with corn, soybeans, wheat and various other row crops.
Hicure, a biostimulant developed by Syngenta, is distributed in the UK by ICL. Developed for ornamental plants, the product contains easily absorbed amino acids and peptides that improve plant quality and enhance plant resistance to abiotic stresses, such as drought and heat. The nitrogen-rich molecules in the product are important substances that enable plants to synthesize enzymes and other proteins. The healthy plants can produce amino acids through a complex physiological process that consumes energy. Under stressful conditions, plants stop producing amino acids and begin to break down some proteins to reuse amino acids. Providing ready-made amino acids during periods of stress saves energy, prevents the loss of existing proteins, and lowers the impact of stress on plants.
Syngenta distributes the biopesticide, Draco, in Canada, which was developed by FMC and can be used for seed treatment. It combines the modes of action of Bacillus licheniformis and Bacillus subtilis to protect plants from pests, improve water utilization by roots and enhance plant performance, especially under drought condition.
Furthermore, products that promote root growth can also protect plants from drought stress to a certain extent. For example, UPL’s NPP will distribute Kimitec’s VELEXI in the United States, which improves soil microbial activity, soil aeration and nutrient availability, as well as promotes root development. NPP will also launch Kimitec’s root-enhancement product, SERENIS, in the country.
In India, UPL has launched the microbial product, ZOATIN, developed by Chr. Hansen, which solubilizes unavailable forms of phosphorous in the soil and improves root development, water use efficiency and crop resilience against stresses, such as drought. ZOATIN can be applied to a range of crops, including corn, rice, potato, pulses and vegetables.
Corteva and Syngenta incorporate nitrogen-fixing microbial products, expand nutrient use efficiency portfolio
Corteva will distribute Symborg’s unique endophytic bacteria Methylobacterium symbioticum throughout the Americas, Europe and Asia Pacific. The bacteria fix nitrogen from the air and convert it for plants. Corteva will provide the bacteria under the brand names BlueN™ or Utrisha™ N nutrient efficiency optimizer. The product can improve yield potential for a wide range of crops, such as fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, sugar cane, row crops, pasture and ornamental plants.
Syngenta has announced their exclusive rights to distribute Azotic Technologies’ Envita® in Canada. The product contains a food-grade strain of the bacteria Gluconacetobacter diazotrophicus, which can be applied in-furrow or to leaves. The bacteria form a symbiotic relationship with plants in roots and leaves, fixing nitrogen from the air soon after its application and providing it to plants. A wide range of crops, such as corn, canola, cereals, soybeans, and potatoes will benefit from the products. Third-party trials conducted across Canada in 2020 and 2021 have shown that Envita helped growers increase yield by about 80%. Syngenta will provide the product for the 2023 growing season.
These two products contain the unique endophytes that can be used as alternatives to synthetic nitrogen fertilizers, in order to reduce dependence on soil nitrogen, and mitigate the environmental impact from fertilizer leaching, volatilization or denitrification. These nitrogen-fixing microbes increase nitrogen use efficiency and supply nitrogen to plants throughout the growing season. Alongside these advantages of the two products, the high synthetic nitrogen fertilizer prices will be beneficial to the promotion of nitrogen-fixing microbes.
UPL and Corteva distribute viral insecticides in the United States
Corteva has signed an agreement to deliver Andermatt’s bioinsecticide Hearken™ in the United States. The product is based on the naturally occurring Helicoverpa armigera nucleopolyhedrovirus, which controls the larvae of African cotton bollworm, corn earworm and other Helicoverpa species that affect soybeans, cotton, sorghum and corn. After the product is applied to crop leaves, the virus infects the pests through ingestion. When the pests are dead, their bodies liquify and release a large number of virus particles that infect other larvae. The pests suffering from sub-lethal infections can infect their offspring and inhibit them from continuing the life cycle of the next generations.
UPL announced a partnership to distribute AgBiTech’s Heligen® and Fawligen® in the western United States. Heligen® contains Helicoverpa armigera Nucleopolyhedrovirus, which controls corn earworm, cotton bollworm, tomato fruitworm and tobacco budworm larvae. Fawligen® is based on Spodoptera frugiperda Multiple Nucleopolyhedrovirus, specifically developed to control fall armyworm.
A good market potential can be expected for these viral insecticides. The United States is the largest corn producer in the world, and these products can be applied to this crop. Their targets, Helicoverpa species and fall armyworm, are major economic pests in the country. These insecticides are effective in controlling pest resistant to traditional insecticides. Moreover, the three OMRI-listed products are safe for non-target organisms and easily fit in within integrated pest management programs.
The future plans of multinationals
Small and medium-sized enterprises make up the majority of the manufacturers that multinationals newly collaborate with (table 1). These enterprises are also key sources of innovation, and their biologicals are rapidly entering the market through the global distribution networks of multinationals, as well as helping multinationals achieve their growth plans.
In Syngenta’s new Good Growth Plan, the company has committed to investing $2 billion in sustainable agriculture by 2025. It has also committed to releasing two sustainable technology breakthroughs every year. Benefitting from its distribution partnerships, Syngenta’s biological solutions will further expanded, helping it provide farmers with unique and innovative products, and gradually achieving the goals of its Green Growth Plan.
UPL has set a goal to achieve a CAGR of 20% in NPP sales over the next five years. Distribution partnerships will be key to increasing sales and reflect OpenAg’s commitment to open collaborations. After expanding its biologicals portfolio, UPL will deliver more sustainable natural crop solutions to more regions around the world.
In 2020, Corteva announced its 2030 Sustainability Goals, which include improving soil health on 30 million hectares of global cropland, increasing nitrogen use efficiency, and improving yields on 2.5 million hectares of seed production and water stressed cropland by 2030. Going forward, Corteva is prepared to launch a series of bio-products, to achieve its goal and support sustainable agriculture.
Table 1. Newly signed distribution agreements and products launched by multinationals in 2021-2022
|Distributor||Manufacturer||Region||Product||Active ingredient||Product efficacy|
|ICL||Syngenta||UK||Hicure®||Amino acids and peptides||Enhancing plant resistance to abiotic stresses, such as drought and heat|
|Corteva Agriscience||Andermatt||Greece||Bolldex ||Entomopathogenic virus||Control of Helicoverpa armigera|
|Corteva Agriscience||Eden Research||EU, UK and Serbia||Seed treatment|| - ||Protecting seeds, with Sustaine® encapsulation technology|
|Corteva Agriscience||Pro Farm Technologies||Europe|
|Macro- and microelements, EDTA chelates, humic acids etc.||Delivering key nutrients|
|Nufarm||Futureco Bioscience||Spain||NOFLY WP||Cordyceps fumosorosea strain FE9901||Control of some species of whiteflies, aphids, thrips, some caterpillars etc.|
|Syngenta ||M2i||France||EXPLOYO™ Vit||Pheromone||Control of vine moth Lobesia botrana|
|UPL||Koppert ||Spain and Portugal||Thoderm P||Trichoderma harzianum||Control of soil borne diseases, promoting plant growth and uniformity|
|Lecisum||Lecanicillium muscarium||Control of whiteflies, thrips and aphids|
|Barandel||Polybutene||Control of insects|
|Syngenta||FMC||Canada||Draco™||Bacillus licheniformis and Bacillus subtilis ||Controling pests, improving water utilization by roots and enhancing plant performance|
|UPL||Kimitec||US||Alfa™||Soil probiotics||Optimizing access to water and nutrients in crops|
|Moto™|| - ||Supplying nitrogen to crops to help increase resistance to abiotic stress|
|Velexi™||Soil probiotics||Promoting the activity of soil microorganisms|
|Serenis™|| - ||Improving development of plant's root system|
|Cevo™|| - ||Providing nitrogen to crops, supporting plant metabolism|
|Syngenta ||Azotic Technologies||Canada||Envita®||Gluconacetobacter diazotrophicus||Providing nitrogen for plants|
|UPL||AgBiTech||US||Heligen® ||Helicoverpa armigera Nucleopolyhedrovirus||Control of corn earworm, cotton bollworm, tomato fruitworm and tobacco budworm larvae|
|Fawligen®||Spodoptera frugiperda Multiple Nucleopolyhedrovirus||Control of fall armyworm|
|Corteva Agriscience||Andermatt ||US||Hearken™|
|Control of larvae of Helicoverpa species|
|Bexfond™||Bacillus velezensis ||Control of soil borne pathogens including Rhizoctonia|
|UPL||Agrauxine||US||Biopesticide||Microorganism-derived substances||Biocontrol |
|Syngenta ||Botanical Solution Inc.||Peru and Mexico||Botristop®||Quillaja saponaria Molina extract||Control of Botrytis cinerea|
|Syngenta ||STK||Mexico ||Timorex® Act||Tea tree plant extract||Control of a broad spectrum of plant diseases|
|Corteva Agriscience||Simbiose Agro||Brazil||Biostimulants and biocontrols||Microb-based|| - |
|Corteva Agriscience||Acadian Plant Health||China||KINSIDRO®||Ascophyllum extracts||Helping plant resist stresses, modulating the hormone signaling etc.|
|UPL||Chr. Hansen||India||ZOATIN||Bacteria||Solubilizing unavailable forms of phosphorous in the soil|
|Syngenta ||Provivi||Indonesia||Nelvium™||Pheromone||Control of pests in rice|
|UPL||Koppert ||India||Copio||Bacteria||Improving soil health|
|Corteva Agriscience||Elemental Enzymes||Global ||Sosdia™ Stress abiotic stress mitigator||Organic molecules||Protecting plant cells, reducing water loss, improving stoma function and helping plants cope with abiotic stresses|
|Holzem™||Peptide||Alerting plants to invading pathogens, which primes its immune system and helps the plant protect itself from fungal diseases|
|Corteva Agriscience||Symborg||Americas, Europe and Asia Pacific||BlueN™ or Utrisha™ N ||Methylobacterium symbioticum||Providing nitrogen for plants|
|UPL||Oro Agri ||Global ||Orange Oil formulation||Orange Oil||Control of pests|
|UPL||Agrauxine||Multiple regions||Nexy®||Microorganism-derived substances||Control of key post-harvest pathogens in pome fruit, citrus and bananas|
|Corteva Agriscience||Marrone Bio Innovations||Global ||Seed treatments|| - ||For row crops seeds|
Europe, Middle East and Africa
|Control of a broad spectrum of soilborne and foliar diseases|
This article was initially published in the magazine 2022 Biologicals Special.