Mar. 16, 2023
From the first ancients’ farmers in Egypt to the actual farmers worldwide, they have in common that weeds must be controlled.
They used different methods. The original farmers used some plant species to control weeds and that was a good idea. But the larger area in the field makes obsolete to think in that ancient method.
Food production in the early Egypt
In the moder agriculture, the synthetic chemicals were the chosen tool. It is curious that biologicals in some ways is a return to the ancient agriculture in many ways.
Biotechnology is the tool we are using to develop natural active ingredients for the crop protection industry. We now do not to cultivate specific plant species in the border of the crops to control weeds, we today use natural molecules from different biological sources. A 2.0 version of the original farmers in Egypt.
The source of natural molecules come from the original (and ancient) plant-to-plant interaction to control weeds, but also, the natural molecules come from fungus and bacteria. Something amazing for an ancient Egyptian farmer.
This is a return to the source with a biotechnology ″touch″ to improve our efficacy in the pest control while we care of the environment.
The synthetic active ingredients bring to our crop protection era the control of the pests and the incredible high levels of production. In parallel non desirable effects were observed, like weeds resistant to many chemicals.
Today is an open question about how we are going to kill those resistant weeds to protect our crops.
The answer may come from the biologicals to control resistant weeds. Biologicals with new modes of action may be the answer while they care the environment. In addition to this approach, we have seen in our lab that many different weak active ingredients with different mode of action are suitable for the weed control, but it is not practical in the field yet.
If we agree that what the nature build, the nature destroy, then biologicals may have an answer to the environmental questions to protect the wild while we use biologicals agrochemicals to control pests.
But is it really true? If we apply tons of natural chemicals to control weeds in the field the non-desirables secondaries effect may appears. What do they are? Well, I think that we are feeding different organisms with natural chemicals if we used them with no control. We know very well what happens if we apply tons of the same chemical to the field every year. We are increasing the population of an organism that resist this chemical: for instance the weed resistant to glyphosate.
The management in crop protection seems to be an important hidden tool in the biological area to avoid the problems we observed with the synthetic chemicals. We have to learn from the glyphosate-synthetic era. Too much of one thing is not good.
Perhaps a poor represented bacteria or fungus in the soil may grow in the presence of a natural chemical. Perhaps a bacterium or a fungus is inhibited with a natural chemical and the non-desirable organism grows because the natural control is killed. Then we must expect secondaries effect from natural chemicals if we used them under no control. Fortunately once the hungry population of microorganisms in the soil eat the biologicals, then it go back to the previous level. At least it is expected to work so.
What is true is that many of the different problems originated by the synthetic chemicals may be avoided with the biologicals. But the production levels using natural chemicals must be the same or higher at the same costs. Do the biologicals will cover this expectation? It seems they will.
In the market we can find today many fungicides and insecticides with good results. But efficient (cost & effective) herbicides seem harder to find. We in our lab are working with plants as natural sources to control weeds. We found a systemic plant extract that kill the weeds with just one application. We used to name this particular plant extract as ″glyphosate looks like″ because the effect it produces on the weeds mimics glyphosate. But we still must work with it to lower the doses.
During our search of herbicides, insecticides, fungicides and stimulants we found an elicitor. The elicitor works on potato, tomato and pepper plants inducing a response that allow the plant to avoid the phytophthora attack. The extract do not kill the fungus in Petri dishes.
The elicitors are a good idea about the protection of the plants against pests. A systemic response produced by an elicitor may allow to produce seeds of pepper without phytophtora as was our case in an experiment we did in Chile under working-field conditions. Chile produces 60% of the pepper seeds worldwide. The application of the elicitor-plant extract produced a systemic response that reaches the fruits: the fruits produced seeds without the fungus. Then this plant extract may be an extraordinary tool for the Chilean farmers to export pepper seeds free of phytophthora.
As I mentioned many different weak active ingredients in the same formulation may produce a good pest controller. In our experience a bio-herbicide based on different active ingredients may be formulated. The question is to produce this formulated at a reasonable cost. We are exploring this possibility with different known ingredients to control weeds in the field.
As a last word about biologicals is that they can be the next generation of pest control in the field. But we should care about the secondary effects and the management of the natural chemicals. Natural do not means good every time we use them.
The use of biologicals may bring to the wild flora-fauna negative effects if they are going to be used without control. We already know the effect that can produce tons of synthetic chemicals in the field. Not only in the wild flora but also in the human environment. We should care of the ″factory″ as the environment it is for the future farm-work that is going to be done by the future generations. We do not stumble with the same stone twice.
Gustavo Sosa gave a speech regarding their research on plant-derived bioherbicides at BioEx 2023.
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