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Global use of biopesticides shows strong future growth potential

Biopesticides sector estimated to be worth around US$3.5 billion in 2018

A new report by IEG Policy’s sister website Agrow on Biopesticides demonstrates the significant market growth that has occurred over recent years in this emerging crop protection segment and its future potential.

The global biopesticides sector is estimated to be worth around US$3.5 billion per annum (2018) with continued very strong growth. Projections to 2025 indicate a market size of around $8 billion – with a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of over 15%.

The biopesticide share of the global crop protection market is about 5.4%. However, there is currently negligible use of biological control in the herbicide sector, so considering only control of insect pests, nematodes and pathogens, the share is 12.1%. In the fruit and vegetable sector, which accounts for about 90% of biopesticide usage, their market share is 18.5%.

The drivers for growth come from several sources, such as the difficulties involved with finding and registering new crop protection chemicals, and the demands of food companies and consumers for lower residues.

Microbial products are the largest and most valuable category, especially Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) products. Sales of bioinsecticides have a slightly greater global market share (47%) than biofungicides (44%). Other important active ingredients are Bacillus subtilis, Trichoderma spp., (biofungicides); Beauveria bassiana (bioinsecticide); Bacillus firmus and Paecilonyces lilacinus (bionematicides).

Europe and North America vie for the largest regional market share at over 30% each. Latin America and Asia will pass 15% each by 2020.

Milestones in the development of the sector have included the early research and commercialisation of insect pathogens for crop protection; harnessing natural enemies of pests; the development of Bt as a bioinsecticide through to Bt genetically modified (GM) crops; the development of an infrastructure for the sector in terms of regulatory affairs and industry bodies; the promotion of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and government policies to support more sustainable approaches to crop protection; and the recent surge of interest from agrochemical majors.

Biopesticides have advantages including specific action against particular targets and low environmental impact, but must be used carefully in integrated crop management systems, acknowledging that they may be slow to take effect and have little residual action.

In the US, there are specific regulatory definitions and paths for biopesticides resulting in considerably faster and cheaper registration than in Europe.

In the EU, although there are various incentives to promote the commercialisation and use of biopesticides, products based on microorganisms or biochemical extracts generally follow the same regulatory path as chemicals.

STK looks to EU approval for hybrids

One such company globally expanding biopesticides company covered in the new Agrow report is STK, based in Israel, which focuses on the development and marketing of plant extract-based biopesticides. It concentrates on the incorporation of these biopesticides into conventional spraying programs using agrochemicals for sustainable crop production.

STK now comprises two businesses. STK Bio-Ag serves global agriculture markets, offering botanical-based and ‘hybrid’ solutions for crop protection. STK Aqua serves the global fish and shrimp farming industry, offering biological solutions.

STK’s leading product is the biofungicide Timorex Gold, based on a plant extract of Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree). It is registered and sold in around 30 countries and used to control a broad-spectrum of diseases in diverse crops including black sigatoka (Mycosphaerella fijiensis) in bananas and powdery mildew (Uncinula necator) in grapevines.

In 2017, Timorex Gold was approved for use on cucumbers and courgettes in Spain; in Brazil for the control of various diseases on tomatoes, grapevines, bananas, broccoli and lettuces; and in China for the control of powdery mildew (Sphaerotheca macularis) on strawberries and early blight (Alternaria solani) on tomatoes. Last year STK also granted Syngenta exclusive rights to commercialise and distribute Timorex Gold for use on edible crops in Australia and New Zealand.

Also in 2017, STK and Spanish biopesticide firm, Seipasa agreed to introduce a Bacillus subtilis-based biofungicide/bactericide into the US. Seipasa will be responsible for manufacturing while STK will market and distribute the product as Aviv. It protects crops from foliar and soil diseases by preventing their access to roots and plant surfaces, by disrupting pathogen development and by inducing systemic acquired resistance.

In April 2018, STK and BASF agreed a distribution deal for Timorex Gold in Brazil. BASF gained exclusive rights to market the product in the country for three years from the coming season. Timorex Gold is sold for use on 15 crops in Brazil, including grapevines, bananas, coffee and tomatoes.

STK also sells ‘hybrid’ products, which are combinations of biopesticides and conventional chemical active ingredients. For example, Regev (comprising Melaleuca alternifolia extract and difenoconazole). Regev was approved in Peru in early 2018 for use on a wide variety of fruit, vegetables and row crops, and later in Argentina for use on peanuts (to be distributed by Sumitomo’s subsidiary Summit Agro). The product has already been approved in Israel, Serbia, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Panama.

Speaking at the Agrow Awards event in London late last year, the new CEO of STK, Arye Tenenbaum, confirmed that: “Regev and other new hybrids are in the registration phase within the EU. The EU registration phase is quite lengthy, so we do not plan on commercialisation until 2024, including distribution partnerships, but this could happen sooner if the registration process of the EU moves along more quickly.

In the meantime, we are moving ahead with countries outside the EU. We have already achieved registration and commercialisation for Regev in Serbia, where STK’s botanical-based biopesticide Timorex Gold is also registered and being used by growers.

In the US, we are already in the registration phase with commercialisation expected by 2022 or sooner. Growers are already using STK’s Timorex Gold botanical-based biofungicide and Aviv Bacillus subtilis biofungicide thoughout the US with great success.

In China, we expect Timorex Gold to be registered and commercialised within a year or two for a wide variety of crops. Unfortunately, China does not yet allow hybrid solutions, such as Regev, but we have achieved registration and commercialisation of Regev in the Philippines, and we are field-testing in other Asian countries where we expect commercialisation soon,” he confirmed.

Download a sample copy of Agrow’s new Biopesticides 2019 report by following this link or purchase the full version at the Agribusiness Intelligence store.

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