Hebei Lansheng Biotech Co., Ltd. ShangHai Yuelian Biotech Co., Ltd.

Biologicals Watch | What multinationals focus on and future trendsqrcode

Mar. 15, 2023

Favorites Print
Mar. 15, 2023

Excessive use of agrochemicals in the past decades has been causing environmental and health problems, as well as pest resistance to pesticides, which has become a key concern amongst growers, governors and the industry. The Russia and Ukraine conflict has disrupted the raw material supply chain, forcing the crop production system to reduce agrochemical adoption. And climate change boosts extreme weather, which widely occurred in the past two years. All these have been making the industry focus more on developing and providing sustainable crop solutions.

Bio-sourced products have tremendous potential to provide options for farmers to manage pests sustainably. Below are popular fields of biologicals that key industry players have chosen to work on in the past two years. And what can we expect from them in the near future?

Synthetic biology boosts development of biosolutions

Applying synthetic biology approaches to metabolic engineering promotes biomanufacturing, an emerging technology enabling the large-scale production of agents for pest control. Recent advances in synthetic biology are not only expanding the diversity of complex molecules but also providing new opportunities for the production of nitrogen-fixing microbes and others that benefit both growers and the environment.

In 2021, Corteva Agriscience started a multi-year collaboration with Ginkgo Bioworks, a full-stack synthetic biology service provider. Corteva utilizes Ginkgo's synthetic biology platform to develop sustainable crop protection solutions. Ginkgo's extensive cell engineering platform and DNA codebase help Corteva explore the next generation of naturally-inspired pesticides and accelerate the discovery and optimization of complex bio-sourced products.

In the same year, Sumitomo Chemical signed a partnership, which allowed them to use Ginkgo's expertise in organism engineering to develop more bio-based chemicals. The partnership combines Sumitomo’s chemical technologies and industry insights in health and crop sciences with Ginkgo’s high-throughput genome editing and fermentation capabilities, which increases Sumitomo’s production efficiency for their customers.

With their advanced synthetic biology platform, Ginkgo also collaborates with Bayer. Bayer and Ginkgo founded Joyn Bio in 2017, aiming to support sustainable agriculture with synthetic biology, beginning by reducing the environmental impact of nitrogen fertilizer uses. Joyn Bio characterized Bayer’s extensive library of proprietary microbial strains. Joyn Bio could test thousands of samples at a time using the high-throughput analytics of Ginkgo’s foundries, leading to a thorough analysis of thousands of isolated organic strains and rapid prototyping of engineered strains that produce nitrogen in crop roots. In 2022, Bayer announced that they were pursuing an agreement that Ginkgo would acquire Bayer’s West Sacramento Biologics R&D site and internal discovery and lead optimization platform, while Bayer would get Joyn Bio’s nitrogen-fixing technologies, closing their joint venture created in 2017. Ginkgo will become a multi-year microbial strategic partner with Bayer to develop biosolutions in fields of nitrogen optimization, carbon sequestration, next generation crop protection.

In 2022, FMC completed the acquisition of BioPhero, specializing in developing pheromones. This US$200 million acquisition not only expands FMC biological segments with pheromones but also brings patented synthetic biology technology to FMC. This technology enables high-volume pheromone production at substantially lower costs than competitive technologies, expanding the application of pheromones from fruit and vegetable to large row crops. Their synthetic biology technology can produce ingredients other than pheromones, enabling FMC’s biosolutions to become more diverse in the future.

Syngenta launched, in Indonesia, a new mating disruption solution Nelvium developed by Provivi, which also exemplifies pheromone production with synthetic biology.

AI assists effectiveness evaluation of products for soil health

Bayer collaborated with Biome Makers, a provider of soil microbiome insights. They worked together to validate an automatized recommendation engine using soil microbiome and environmental data to optimize product application and improve yield and soil health. Biome Makers AI virtual assistant helps growers pinpoint what their crops and soils need to increase yield. The effectiveness of Bayer´s biofungicide Minuet has been assessed during this collaboration.

Syngenta Crop Protection joins forces with Biome Makers to address soil health. Biome Makers BeCrop technology delivers insights into soil biology and sets the standard for soil health. Under this partnership, Syngenta’s R&D-led LIVINGRO™ program will leverage this technology to make decisions to improve crop production, biodiversity and soil health. BeCrop has the largest global database of 14 million taxonomic references of soil microorganisms. In addition, BeCrop decodes soil biology and translates complex data of soil microbiome into user-friendly and actionable reports.

The manufacturers highly value innovative ways of evaluating biologicals. AI technologies like these developed by Biome Makers, will be more widely adopted by the industry to verify, for example, their products’ impact on soil health.

Such AI assistants can also be combined with other precision agriculture tools to boost input use efficiency and return on investment, build up soil biodiversity, and reduce carbon emissions from the agriculture sector. 

Seaweed-based biostimulants and microbe-based pesticides are hot categories of new biosourced products 

Numerous enterprises newly introduced their natural crop solutions, including biostimulants and biopesticides, especially beneficial soil microbes, that facilitate the trend towards sustainable crop production. Seaweed extracts and microbes (especially Trichoderma harzianum and Bacillus subtilis) are common active ingredients in biologicals registered or launched in 2021 and 2022. Below are their efficacy, hurdles to wider adoption and related new technologies.

Seaweed extracts

Seaweed extracts, acting as biostimulants, are widely used in crop management. They are rich in micro and macronutrients, humic acids, plant hormones etc., which facilitate nutrient uptake by roots, improve plant resistance to biotic and abiotic stress and activate soil microbiota.

In the past, the widespread use of seaweed extracts was impeded by the need for a more scientific understanding of the biochemical composition and mode of action of such products. ″This led to regulatory difficulties where companies struggled to understand how to properly register and position their products (are they pesticides/growth regulators, are they fertilizers, what benefits can we correctly claim etc.),″ says David Hiltz, Director of Regulatory Affairs at Acadian Plant Health. ″Also, the past lack of knowledge of active ingredients made it difficult to formulate with seaweeds as it was unclear which agronomic additives were needed to enhance the product’s performance. Finally, the lack of precise modes of action for the products made it difficult to recommend accurate application rates and timings, leading to perceived inconsistencies in product performance.″ 

The industry is deepening its understanding of seaweed extracts. According to Hiltz, Acadian and other progressive companies have advanced their knowledge through scientific studies. The advancements and proliferation of molecular biology tools for studying in situ gene activation provide insight into the mode of action. Scientific publications of such research have improved the credibility of seaweed extracts in the market and amended the recommendations on their application, leading to more positive trial outcomes. 

Trichoderma harzianum and Bacillus subtilis

Trichoderma is among the most effective fungus that facilitates plant growth, and Trichoderma harzianum is one of the most commonly used species of Trichoderma for crop production. 

Bacillus subtilis is the most commonly used plant growth-promoting rhizobacteria.

Both Trichoderma harzianum and Bacillus subtilis mainly exist in soils worldwide and are very competitive to plant soil-borne pathogens and thus can be used as a fungicide. They also secrete plant growth hormones and increase soil nutrient availability to plants.

Compared to chemical products, microbial products are vulnerable to environmental changes. ″For years, the stability of the microbial agent has generated difficulties since many of them had limitations to their useful life. They required storage conditions (temperatures, for example) and application (which meant avoiding mixtures with other products to ensure non-elimination of the microorganism) that were so specific that their actual and widespread use in the field was impossible due to lack of efficacy,″ said Francisco Espinosa, Chief Research Officer at Seipasa.

″A further major challenge has been to find formulations technologically adapted to the user’s demands to ensure correct application. The first formulations that we found in the market were presented in the form of WP (wettable power) or SC (suspension concentrate), which tried to stabilize the broth of the fermentation process of obtaining the microorganism, i.e. without further steps in the formulation. For this reason, they incurred the standard defects of these types of formulations, i.e. wettability problems (WP), powder generation (WP), long-term stability of the formulation (SC), nozzle clogging, staining of the crop, etc.,″ Espinosa added.

Manufacturers have been improving their formulation technologies. According to Espinosa, in the market, there are highly technical SC (suspension concentrate) formulations such as Seipasa’s biofungicide Fungisei, or other types of formulations such as WDG (Water Dispersible Granule) and OD (Oil Dispersion), which have allowed formulations based on microorganisms to be a guarantee of efficiency in the application for the farmer.


Figure 1. Mergers and acquisitions in biologicals industry in 2021-2022

M&A accelerate development of biosolutions

Mergers and acquisitions (M&A) of key players in the industry frequently occurred in the past two years. These affairs have allowed their R&D team to expand with enriched experience and expertise, which will benefit them in getting insights into active materials’ composition, mode of action, optimal applications, and advanced formulation and production technologies, leading to wider adoptions of biosolutions. 

M&A are getting more frequently compared to a decade ago. This will continue in the near future. 

More solutions combined with biologicals and chemicals can be expect

M&A, R&D collaboration and distribution partnership enable agrochemical giants to expand their portfolio with biologicals, which complement their existing chemical products. In addition, the giants are trying to build up integrated solutions combining chemicals and biologicals to manage pest resistance, reduce chemical adoption, and mitigate negative impact of agriculture on the environment and health.

UPL, which has already emerged as the largest biosolutions provider in the world, carved out an NPP (Natural Plant Protection) business segment for focused growth. Their ProNutiva program integrates biosolutions and chemical pesticides to offer sustainable farming with a lesser environmental footprint while ensuring higher yields. The cropland area has been rapidly expanding. By March 2021, 300,000 hectares of villages, in India alone adopted its solutions. The area was doubled in the country in 2022, making ProNutiva constitute about 8% of total revenue in India. The growth of NPP natural products will benefit from developing ProNutiva solutions.

FMC has collaborated with Novozymes to co-develop enzyme solutions for the global markets. The partnership will focus on developing solutions for controlling critical soybean fungal diseases, combining products with FMC's leading diamide insecticide technology against key insect pests. 

Syngenta is working with Scheffer to develop products derived from microbes for Brazilian farms, especially bacterial and fungal pesticides for soy, corn and cotton. This partnership focuses on soil health by combining conventional and biological tools to achieve more significant sustainable cultivation.

Table 1: Part of products containing bio-sourced ingredients registered/launched in 2021-2022

ProductActive ingredientBenefitRegionProvider
NOFLY WPCordyceps fumosorosea strain   FE9901Biological insecticide (Wettable Powder) active against all life cycle stages of different species of whiteflies, thrips, and other pestsBelgium,   Netherlands, Great Britain, Ireland, Mexico, GuatemalaFutureco Bioscience
NOFLY ODCordyceps fumosorosea strain FE9901Biological insecticide (Oil Dispersion) active against all life cycle stages of different species of whiteflies, thrips, and other pestsFranceFutureco Bioscience
Botamisol PRO 80Highly concentrated free L-amino acidsEnergizing biostimulant, composed of highly concentrated amino acids, to ensure maximum plant metabolism capacityBrazilFutureco Bioscience
Cuc-GUARDMild strain of Cucumber Green Mottle Mosaic virusPrevention of cucumber green mottle mosaic virusCanada A&L Biological
AccoladeAzospirillum brasilense Fixing nitrogen; increasing root development and secondary lateral root systemsUSAVerdesian Life Sciences
LumialzaBacillus amyloliquefaciens strain PTA-4838Control of the main nematodes in soy and corn field; producing hormones in the plant, providing greater root and shoot developmentBrazilCorteva Agriscience
RizodermaTrichoderma harzianumControl of seed and soilborne diseasesBrazil Rizobacter 
FungiseiBacillus subtilisControl of diseases such as Botrytis, mildew, powdery mildew etc. in a wide variety of cropsSpain, France, PortugalSeipasa
MinuetBacillus subtilis strain QST 713Control of soil-borne diseasesCanada Bayer
LALGUARD JAVA WPCordyceps javanica fungusControl of Bemisia tabaci race BBrazilLallemand 
Wangqiu (望秋)Ascophyllum extract etc.Improving plant resistance to stress; boosting root growth etc.ChinaBASF 
Fangtule (芳土乐)Trichoderma harzianum TH7, Purpureocillium lilacinum PL22 , Bacillus pumilus M101Control of soil pathogen; improving balance of soil microbes etc.ChinaFMC 
KINSIDROAscophyllum extractImproving plant resistance to stress; improving nutrient   uptake by crop etc.ChinaCorteva Agriscience
BioWakeSoybean-derived substancesFor use on corn and soybean seeds to ensure seed flowability through the planterUSAAMVAC
TheiaBacillus subtilis strain AFS032321Control of broad-spectrum foliar and soil disease for high-value cropsUSAAgBiome 
Serifel Bacillus amyloliquefaciens strain MBI600Control of Botrytis cinerea and other pathogensChile, ArgentinaBASF 
EnceraGluconacetobacter   diazotrophicusEnabling cells throughout the plant to fix their own nitrogenEUAzotic 
Tropbio DermaTrichoderma harzianumControl of pathogenArgentinaTropfen 
Tropbio ProHarpin αβEliciting hypersensitive responsesArgentinaTropfen 
Tropbio Pack SoyBradyrhizobium   japonicum, Trichoderma   harzianumFixing nitrogen; control of pathogenArgentinaTropfen 
Carboplex Seaweed extract and fermented plant materialsStimulating fruit crops to convert carbohydrates to sugar fasterUKOlmix
Romeo CerevisaneControl of soybean Asian rustBrazilIHARA 
Checkmate CRSRescalureMating disruption of Aonidiella aurantii MaskellAustraliaSuterra
Innobio   Protergium Terra

Bacillus velezensis T2,

Trichoderma harzianum TH10

Facilitating the solubilization and absorption of nutrients, control of soil and seed   pathogenic fungiArgentinaHELM 
TopSeedTrichoderma harzianumControl of pathogens in wheat and barley, increasing the availability of nutrients   for plantsArgentinaSpraytec 
BombardeiroBacillus velezensisBacillus pumilusBacillus subtilisControl of fungal pathogenBrazil Biotrop 
biotrinsicKosakonia cowaniiSuppressing plant diseasesUSAIndigo Agriculture
Timorex ActExtract of the tea tree plantAgainst a broad spectrum of plant diseases in a variety of fruit and vegetable cropsMexicoSyngenta
Terranem Steinernema carpocapsaeControl of sugarcane weevilBrazilKoppert 
Howler Pseudomonas chlororaphis strain AFS009Control of soil-borne and foliar diseases in key crops like hops, sugar beets, oilseed crops, and ornamentalsUSAAgBiome 
NelviumPheromoneControl of pests in riceIndonesiaSyngenta

This article was initially published in AgroPages' 'Annual Review 2022' magazine.



More from AgroNewsChange

Hot Topic More

Subscribe Comment


Subscribe Email: *
Mobile Number:  





Subscribe BioEx Biweekly to send news related to your mailbox