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Dr. Alan Bullion returns this week to provide more expert opinion on the crop protection industry. Alan publishes one-off reports across the crop protection, animal health, fertilizer, soft commodities, and policy and legislation sectors.
In Part 1, we focus on biopesticides and precision farming.
Q. What are the key factors contributing to the development of the biopesticides sector? How are the leading R&D based companies strengthening their portfolios?
Biopesticides are now widely available options in many crop protection programmes. They are firmly established for use in fruit and vegetables and increasingly available for broadacre field crops across the world.
The leading R&D based companies have strengthened their portfolios mainly through acquisitions and collaborations. Of the many specialist biopesticide companies, several are now achieving a global reach.
The development of the biopesticides sector is being driven by a number of factors, including their favourable environmental profile and absence of chemical residues; the difficulty in finding novel chemical active ingredients; and improved understanding of how best to use biological products, particularly in integrated pest management systems.
Q. How will the market for plant stress products evolve over the next 5 years? How do these products increase the tolerance of crops?
Abiotic stresses such as heat, cold and drought prevent crops from reaching their full potential productivity. Plant stress products are a new category, increasing the tolerance of crop plants to these and other adverse environments. They span conventional pesticides with ‘crop enhancement’ or ‘plant health’ promoting properties, biostimulants and plant growth regulators.
Certain classes of fungicides and insecticides, particularly the strobilurins and neonicotinoids, respectively, were found to promote plant growth and alleviate stress when first commercialised. Encouraged by these ‘blockbuster’ active ingredients, the understanding of the biochemistry and physiology of stress tolerance has improved greatly.
There have been synergies with developments in genomics and plant breeding to develop stress tolerant crop varieties, and this is increasingly where the market will develop over the next five years and more.
Q. What have been the most important technological developments in precision farming over the last decade? How will these developments guide the industry in the coming years and what can we expect to see?
So far, commercial applications of precision agriculture have been heavily biased towards crop nutrition, based on mapping of soil types, crop yield and variable rate fertilizer application. However, precision farming technologies for crop protection are increasingly being adopted on farm.
The development and implementation of precision farming has been made possible by satellite and other geographic information systems. These technologies enable data collected in real-time to be linked with accurate position information in the field.
Early remote detection of disease infection, ideally before symptoms become visible, has been the major target for research in the crop protection precision segment. Mapping fields to designate areas of soil-borne infection is another important topic.
Drones for example offer the potential for rapid assessment and high-resolution imagery. Remote sensing can be used to create images and maps for early diagnosis and intervention. Sensor systems are also now commercially available allowing greater site-specific weed management. So farmers can use inputs more precisely and produce bigger yields.
Alan touches on the role drones will play in the future of the agriculture industry. In Monday’s blog, we examined how drones have the potential to implement better plantation with crop rotation strategies and give crucial inputs related to the daily progress of crops. For more information, you can read the blog in full here.
Don’t forget to check back tomorrow for Part 2. We will be putting more questions to our expert, including:
- What are the three biggest challenges facing the incidence and management of fungicide resistance?
- How will these challenges influence the industry and how will the market players respond?
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