Imagine spending $50 every minute for 11 years! That’s what the crop protection industry does to develop every single cutting edge product for farmers. While all pesticide products on the market are registered by government authorities to meet safety standards, the crop protection industry is always looking to improve the efficacy and safety of our products. Only through investment in innovation can we help farmers deal with the ever-increasing threat from crop pests, while also meeting more exacting societal expectations for pesticide products that are safe for human health and the environment.
Episode 1: Active Ingredients
Active Ingredients are what make crop protection products work. Learn how plant scientists have managed to dramatically decrease the amount of pesticide farmers need to apply to a problem from kilograms per hectare in the 1960s to grams per hectare today – thanks to great innovative advancements.
Biologicals are a growing class of crop protection products, which make use of living organisms like microbes found in nature. Microbes are tiny micro-organisms like viruses, bacteria or fungi, some of which can have pesticide-like qualities that can be used by all farmers.
RNAi is a natural biological process that can be used to “turn down” the expression of certain genes – like the purple or white color in petunia flowers. RNAi has many potential applications, including in the medical field to fight disease, and also for the crop protection industry to prevent pests and diseases from destroying crops. Learn how scientists are using this technique to protect the honey bee population from the Varroa mite.
Computer chemistry uses computers to process hundreds of thousands of chemical structures that could possibly make up a crop protection product, with pinpoint accuracy. Today’s machines are light years ahead of where we were even a decade ago. They are faster, more accurate and easier to use. Chemists set the parameters for the computers to work to ensure pesticides are safer and more effective than ever before.
The formulation of a crop protection product is what gets added to the active ingredient to improve its effectiveness and safety – in other words, its “delivery system”. Plant scientists are currently working on “microencapsulation”, a type of formulation that can trigger an active ingredient into action in specific ways, for example by temperature or by exposure to sunlight.
Inoculants are derived from naturally occurring bacteria called “rhizobia” that are found in the soil. After attaching themselves to the root hairs of legume crops, they convert atmospheric nitrogen for use by the host plant. Nitrogen is essential for plants – helping them grow bigger and stronger to withstand pest pressures.
Seed treatments are coatings for seeds that can be applied prior to planting to help protect them from pests and diseases. They help farmers to plant early and boost their yields, while also enabling cover crops to reduce soil erosion. The seed treatments use a bright color such as red, purple, blue or bright green so that it’s very obvious if a seed has been treated.
Diagnostic apps are mobile phone apps that can help growers diagnose problems on their crops. Apps are being developed to capture and record field data and help farmers determine if they need to use a pesticide, what the best treatment is, how to apply it and how to avoid resistance building up to the pest.
Drones help farmers collect vital information about their crops, helping them understand which crop protection products they need, in what amount, and where and when to use them. They are also showing promise as a way of applying crop protection products, especially for smallholder farmers who often rely on backpack sprayers.