Development of alternatives to traditional pesticides such as biocontrols is “essential, to maximise yields while minimising environmental damage”, according to the CEO of a company that develops the substances.

Biotalys CEO Patrice Selles was speaking about the development of protein-based biocontrols and how they can compare to traditional, chemical pesticides, as well as microbials and other existing biologicals.

“The demand for cleaner, more sustainable produce has surged among consumers and there has been widespread encouragement to move away from chemical pesticides which often pose many environmental and safety risks,” he argued.

This, combined with a growing resistance to these substances, has caused many growers around the world to search for other options. However, the alternatives are not always perfect, Selles claimed.

“While many advocate for a move to non-chemical solutions, some seemingly innocuous biological solutions can actually cause severe environmental, economic or societal concerns,” he said.

“However, microbials and other existing biologicals do not always offer a more sustainable option, and they often lack the consistency, quality and efficiency today’s growers need.”

Protein-based biocontrols are substances that are developed to combine the characteristics of chemical pesticides with the safety profile of biologicals.

According to Selles, these substances can be used in both pre and post-harvest applications and can be integrated into existing pest management programmes to protect yields and reduce waste. He argued that biocontrols meet a number of criteria to “make them a desirable option for farmers”.

“Growers do not need to compromise on efficacy as quality biocontrols have no negative impact on yield and provide the same protection as chemical options. They also ensure safety for all by reducing chemical residues and leaving no trace,” Selles continued.

“Biocontrols are also delivering on the promise of the new food production era and can meet the prongs of sustainability, environmentally, economically and socially.”

However, Selles warned that converting to strict, non-chemical farming overnight would be a mistake. He said that a combined approach is essential to find the most sustainable management system.

“The full value of implementing new technologies in agriculture will come from the ability to use both new and existing practices to find a more sustainable, combined solution.

“While bio-based solutions won’t fully replace traditional chemical solutions anytime soon, there is a prime role for nature in farmers’ ongoing fight to protect crops and ensure a safe food supply,” Selles added.