|Locusts killed by the biocontrol fungus Metarhizium|
Sunday, March 25, 2018
This article was first posted on Forbes on 3/15
Biological crop protection products are an important set of options in the agricultural "tool box." Last week I had the opportunity to attend meetings held in California and get an update on that industry - one I have been following since the 1990s when I worked for Mycogen, one of the earliest companies in this field. The big take-aways from these meetings were:
1) this continues to be a rapidly growing sector,
2) the best fit for these products tends to be in integrated programs with synthetic chemical options, and
3) that the lack of international harmonization of regulations is problematic for even these "soft" products.
The meetings were the Biological Products Industry Association Spring Meeting and the International Symposium and the Biocontrols USA West Conference. Biologicals are crop products based on naturally occurring chemicals and/or live organisms, and thus they tend to get a positive reception from most who hear about them. They tend to be low in toxicity and generally “soft” when it comes to environmental impact. They have been a rapidly growing segment of the crop protection market for some time, expanding their sales at a compound annual growth rate of around 17%, but biologicals still represent only around 5% of the global market for products used in the growing of crops.
This kind of product is attractive in the sense that development timelines tend to be shorter than for synthetic chemicals and the development costs are much lower. These lower barriers to entry have encouraged nearly 500 companies to participate in that 5% of the market.