Manage Pesticide Resistance

It’s high on the list of grower nightmares. An important and reliable pesticide suddenly stops working. More of the product is applied, but with unacceptable results. It’s a well accepted fact that sooner or later pests and diseases develop resistance to synthetic chemicals. Now what?

One answer is to switch products. Switching products may help, but the same dynamics are at play and the problem will likely reoccur. But there is another answer: Confound the pests with strategically timed applications of more complex chemistries.

Complex chemistry is the trademark of biopesticides, which have emerged as the number-one tool in helping growers combat resistance. Biopesticides help manage resistance in two ways. When a grower substitutes a biological for a conventional pesticide, pests and disease populations are no longer being exposed to the synthetic material they’re building resistance to. This extends the efficacy and lifespan of the grower’s most critical synthetic materials. Also, due to their complex chemical nature, pests and diseases do not easily build resistance to biopesticidal compounds.

Success In The Field

The most widely used biopesticides for resistance management are Bt- (Bacillus thuringiensis) based products, says Ramon Georgis, global business manager for Valent BioSciences Corp., Libertyville, IL. Bt is a naturally occurring microorganism in the soil. There are thousands of strains of Bt and a few have been used to manufacture microbial insecticides.

“Most of the Bts have multiple toxins. Therefore,” he points out, “the opportunity for an insect to build resistance in these types of products is very small compared to most of the chemical insecticides, including the new, reduced-risk insecticides, where, in most cases there is only one primary mode of action.”

As a biological insecticide, Bt is considered a true success story by Michael Dimock, director of technology & development for Certis USA, Columbia, MD. He works with products that have proven to make ideal orchard bloom sprays to control twig borer, without harming beneficial organisms such as honeybees, which are usually prevalent in orchards during bloom.

In tomatoes and leafy vegetable crops, Georgis says that Bt products are also very popular for controlling diamondback moth, loopers, and other pests. In one case, relates Georgis, a  reduced-risk chemical product was brought on the market to control these pests, but has since been pulled from certain states because diamondback moth quickly became resistant to it. “This is exactly why a Bt product fits ideally in a program with chemical insecticides to expand the life of the chemical insecticides and to minimize the opportunity for the insect to build resistance.”

Better yield and lower cost to growers have been consistently proven when Bt products are used in resistance management program with chemical insecticides. This is a valuable and important criterion for growers, Georgis said. The products have to work, and they have to be cost effective.

“The very worst insecticide approach is to find something that works and stick with it,” says Dr. David G. Riley, vegetable research entomologist at the University of Georgia, who specializes in resistance management of diamondback moth in brassicas. “And,” he adds, “if a product begins to fail, the very last thing to do is reapply the same product.”

The Search For Alternatives

Growers need alternative materials to supplement their crop protection programs.

Dr. John Trumble, a University of California (UC) Riverside professor of entomology and consultant to some of California’s largest fresh market tomato, celery, and pepper growers, says rotating biopesticides with synthetic chemicals is “absolutely critical.”

“We use biopesticides on a regular basis to break the cycle of harder chemicals and try to prevent resistance development,” he says. Trumble points out that the growers he consults are very receptive to using biopesticides because “they’ve been stung before by resistance development.”

For Trumble, the task of creating a viable rotation program is broader than just recommending crop protection materials. He conducts a cost analysis to determine how to economically rotate biopesticides into the program. “We set up a program and run an economic analysis to find out what the net return was for the compounds that were sprayed,” he explains. “That, to me, is the best way to get growers to do it. If a program doesn’t pencil out — show a return on investment — it makes no sense to participate.”

Another tool used by both Trumble and Riley is to follow the guidelines outlined by the Insect Resistance Action Committee (IRAC) — an arm of the industry association CropLife — to avoid using materials with similar modes of action which leads to resistance. Similarly, the Herbicide Resistance Action Committee (HRAC) and the Fungicide Resistance Action Committee (FRAC) have been organized to assist in combating resistance issues in weeds and diseases. 

“More and more, we are seeing bio-pesticides being put into conventional programs, and that’s what we’re targeting,” says Denise Manker, AgraQuest’s vice president of global development. “The goal,” she adds, “is that growers will have more tools longer because they won’t wear out the single-site fungicide.”

Resistance Management Using Biopesticides

The ability of biopesticides to extend the life of conventional products is rooted in the fact that pests and diseases don’t usually develop resistance to biological products themselves.

John Francis, director of marketing and technical services at BioWorks Inc, Fairport, NY, explains that most synthetic pesticides focus on a specific biological pathway or certain biological functions in the nervous system of an insect and, over time, insects or fungi develop resistance. “Initially the synthetic product works just fine,” he says, but in time, the pest just mutates around it.”

Unlike products based on synthetic chemistry which are usually comprised of a single compound, biopesticides have an active ingredient or formulation that is derived from biological or natural origins. They contain multiple active ingredients and, by extension, are less prone to resistance. Scientifically it’s incorrect to say resistance will never show up, but the occurrence is low.

The increase in use of biological materials is not limited to crop protection. Michael Braverman, manager, Biopesticide Program, IR-4 Project, Rutgers University, points out that biological materials have a wide variety of applications. As an example, he helped register thymol with EPA. Today, thymol has become a popular tool for beekeepers to control varrora mites in honeybees.

“The reason,” says Braverman, “is that the varroa mites were developing resistance to the conventional miticides.” Beekeepers have not reported mites developing resistance to the biological product.

It’s no secret that over time pests and diseases develop resistance to synthetic chemicals, but savvy growers and crop consultants are developing ways to combat the problem. Biopesticides continue to gain momentum as excellent tools to assist growers in keeping resistance under control without sacrificing efficacy or crop quality.

Leave a Reply

Featured Stories

All Vegetables Stories >All Fruits Stories >All Nuts Stories >All Citrus Stories >

The Latest

Apples & PearsBig Apple Crop Expected
September 2, 2014
Generally high quality predicted at U.S. Apple Association Crop Outlook and Marketing Conference. Read More
Apples & PearsBeware Of Fruit Rots During Apple Harvest
September 2, 2014
Conditions lately have been ripe for fungi fiasco. Read More
Apples & PearsThey’re Back! 2014 Brown Marmorated Stink Bug Populat…
September 2, 2014
Pressure building as traps filling up with pest by the hundreds. Read More
Farm ManagementStudy Shows ‘Megadrought’ On The Radar For …
September 2, 2014
Global warming trends fuel parched prediction from scientists. Read More
Farm ManagementTrimble’s Connected Farm Now Includes Field Data Mana…
September 2, 2014
Trimble adds two apps that work with their Connected Farm Web-based solution, providing growers and their advisors with more detailed field information. Read More
FruitsTips To Help You Manage Postharvest Ripening
September 2, 2014
Humidity, ethylene, and temperature can all impact fruit quality. Read More
CitrusHarness The Marketing Power Of Video
September 1, 2014
Multimedia platform is an effective and inexpensive marketing tool for you to attract new customers and keep existing ones loyal to your brand. Read More
Citrus Achievement AwardDespite Industry Challenges, Florida Citrus Leader Has …
September 1, 2014
2014 Florida Grower Citrus Achievement Award winner Mike Sparks feels confident in crop sector's ability to regain strength. Read More
Florida Ag ExpoFood Safety Modernization Act Is On The Plate
September 1, 2014
Florida Ag Expo agenda to serve up important features of looming regulations. Read More
CEU SeriesCEU Series: Put Weeds Out To Pasture
September 1, 2014
No matter where they are, plants out of place can be problematic. Read More
TomatoesProduction Reaches An All-Time High For Processing Toma…
August 29, 2014
A record high is predicted for the 2014 processing tomato crop. Read More
CitrusFlorida Department Of Citrus Knocks NPR Piece Over Juic…
August 28, 2014
Agency goes to bat for the industry regarding statement slighting OJ's health benefits. Read More
Disease ControlLate Blight Update Reveals Heightened Activity
August 28, 2014
While several states in the Northeast have confirmed the presence of late blight, the disease has not been reported in North Dakota or Minnesota. Read More
CitrusFlorida Energy Firm Charged Up About Citrus Biomass Pot…
August 28, 2014
Machine called a game-changer when it comes to a cost-effective, efficient way for tree removal and re-purposing. Read More
EquipmentNew Tractors Improve Maneuverability And Operator Contr…
August 28, 2014
The Magnum Rowtrac tractors from Case IH meet growers’ cropping needs through a wide variety of row spacing and belt options.   Read More
NutsCalifornia County Passes Ordinance To Protect Walnut Gr…
August 27, 2014
Verification of ownership needed to complete sales of valuable nuts. Read More
NutsAlmond Growers Hit By Russian Import Limits
August 27, 2014
Growers reflect on changes to export market in light of produce ban. Read More
Farm ManagementLeadership And Management Expert To Speak At California…
August 27, 2014
Daniel Goleman will make presentation at California State University-Fresno. Read More