Dr. Matthew Tinsley, a senior lecturer at the University of Stirling, has said that the agricultural sector needs to “be worried about pest resistance” to biopesticides amid the release of new analysis from the college.

The University of Stirling, in collaboration with the University of Gothenburg and Sao Paulo State University, released the findings of the study this week and have called for the sector to find a new way manage resistance risks in pests.

Scientists from the universities involved in the study, ‘Increasing ecological heterogeneity can constrain biopesticide resistance evolution‘, have suggested that farmers can help manage resistance risks by planting a wider diversity of crops and using multiple biopesticides. 

Through conducting a synthesis of existing biopesticide research, the scientists said that resistance evolution is already occurring and is likely to become widespread as biopesticide use continues to increase. 

Dr. Tinsley said that farmers and the wider agricultural sector are unaware of the risks that biopesticide resistance can cause because they assume that, because they are from natural sources, it will be hard for pests to develop resistance.

“People are blinkered – they think because biopesticides are derived from natural sources it will be more difficult for pests to evolve resistance, but we still need to be worried about pest resistance to these new agents,” he said.

“The lead time to develop biopesticides is five to 10 years, so if we wait to act, we will lose these new agents because pests will already have evolved.” 

Dr. Rosie Mangan, post-doctoral researcher at the University of Stirling, added: “Novel resistance management approaches are needed for these crop protection products to avoid the same treadmill of invention and loss, as has happened for chemical pesticides. 

“Our perspective argues that farmers can help manage resistance risks by planting a wider diversity of crops and using multiple biopesticides. This will reduce the spread of resistance and help keep biopesticides effective in the long-term.” 

The study is published in Trends in Ecology and Evolution and forms part of the wider Stirling-led project ENDORSE (Enhancing diversity to overcome resistance evolution). 

Tinsley and Mangan worked with Dr. Luc Bussière (University of Gothenburg) and Dr. Ricardo Polanczyk (Sao Paulo State University) on the study.