Recent Teagasc crop management webinars have seen agronomists highlight the loss of the fungicide chlorathalonil as being of major significance to Irish cereal growers in terms of their fight against crop disease.
Related to this comes the worrying confirmation that growing numbers of weeds are becoming resistant to most, and in some cases all, of the herbicides now available.
In an Irish context, this last current comprises wild oats, corn marigold and chickweed, and no doubt, further testing by Teagasc will see additional weed species similarly classified during the period ahead.
Methods to tackle crop disease
To date, the response to this everchanging scenario has been that of encouraging farmers to get back to basics: enhance rotations; select sowing dates that minimise disease threat; and the use of stale seedbed techniques when possible.
In modern speak, it’s an approach encompassed by the term Integrated Pest Management (IPM).
However, there is now a growing expectation that ‘biological-based’ disease control systems can be developed to aid farmers as they strive to carry the fight to fungi and other plant pathogens.
Patrice Selles, CEO of the Belguim-based agtech company Biotalys, explains:
“Biofungicides are already a reality,” he explained.
“But as is always the case with new technologies, they are costly at the outset. So they will be targeted initially at high value fruit and vegetable crops.
“However, with the passage of time and the accompanying reduction in costs, biofungicides will become a feasible option for cereal growers. This may well be the case within the next eight to 10 years.”
Selles has many years’ experience working within the international agrochemicals sector at the highest level.
His commentary on the future prospects for biofungicides coincided with the submission of the registration dossier for the active substance of his company’s first protein-based biocontrol product, Evoca, for EU approval.
Evoca is Biotalys’ first biofungicide and aims to provide fruit and vegetable growers with a novel mode of action to control key pathogens in selected crops.
The submission follows Biotalys’ successful completion of regulatory studies and an extensive global field product development programme, which included more than 300 field trials over multiple seasons under different environmental conditions.
The work demonstrated consistency in effective control of powdery mildew and botrytis cinerea in fruit and vegetable crops, including grapes and strawberries.
“This first registration filing in Europe is a significant milestone for Biotalys as it marks the advent to the market of our novel class of biological solutions developed on our proprietary AGROBODY technology platform,” Selles continued.
“The assessment that will now take place by the authorities is also expected to pave the regulatory pathway in Europe for our strong and diverse pipeline of protein-based biocontrols.
“These are aimed at providing growers with a new way to protect yields and reduce food waste by both preventing crop loss and extending post-harvest protection.”
Evoca was first submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the United States for approval at the end of last year.
Biotalys expects to be able to begin offering the product as part of its market test launch in the United States in 2022, followed by introductions in the EU.