Vegetable growers, increasingly conscious of the environment and rising input costs, will hit the New Year running in their use of biological products, according to several of the top suppliers in that sector of the industry.
“I believe that 2023 will see an acceleration of the adoption of biological products because they are proving their value in this ever more complex world,” says Marcos Castro, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, AgBiTech. “The growers who are trying these biological products are seeing it and, therefore, accelerating adoption into [the] mainstream.”
With predictions of a global recession, the continued war in Ukraine, and the residual effects of the COVID pandemic, growers face “an incredible amount of uncertainty,” says Chris Ciolino, Business Development Manager, Agro Green Solutions, Emery Oleochemicals.
“However, here at Emery Oleochemicals, we predict that the current trend of environmental sustainability and the use of natural and renewable materials as crop inputs will certainly continue and likely accelerate,” he says. “We see the push to continue the utilization of more biopesticides as environmentally conscious end users apply a strategy of reducing synthetic inputs while choosing new inputs, which allow a reuse and recycle approach to farming.”
Adam Burnhams, Chief Commercial Officer, AgBiome, calls the forecast for the biologicals industry “incredibly positive.” His company predicts the New Year will bring forth an increase in solutions that help producers preserve critical agroecosystems. With regard to crop protection, additional biological-based modes of action will help growers tackle key impediments to crop yield and quality while prioritizing environmental and worker safety, he says.
“For AgBiome, 2023 will see the development and commercialization of even more biologically focused innovations with new modes of action for specialty crop growers,” Burnhams says. “We look forward to supporting growers in finding new methods to maximize their crops while preserving access to existing modes of action.”
Growers should expect to see changes across the value chain, from farms to grocery store shelves, according to Rodrigo Bermudez, Director of Sales, West, Locus Agricultural Solutions. Value-added crops will continue to consolidate as the sourcing and contract-growing acreage will reduce overall plantings due to the extreme drought conditions experienced across the country.
“At stores, we’ll see unprocessed whole vegetables taking up more real estate in the produce section, along with higher percentages of the total crop ending up in the freezer aisle, as drought leads to sizing issues,” Bermudez says. “The main development will be at the farm level. Growers in every category will continue feeling the mounting stress of global supply chain issues and the associated elevated costs of inputs. It will be more important than ever to invest in long-term soil fertility and nutrient optimization tools — ones that are readily available and easily incorporated into current management plans.”
Cost, Regulatory Limitations
Rising input costs will increase demand for biologicals in the U.S. and across key growing areas of the world, according to Bee Vectoring Technologies President and CEO Ashish Malik.
“Producers are increasingly seeking more sustainable and more cost-effective ways — in the face of drastically increasing farm input costs — to treat their crops for disease and increasing yield,” Malik says. “This includes investing in precision agriculture systems such as bee vectoring, where targeted application to the blooms enables a grower to reduce the use of the massive amount of traditional chemical treatments done through spraying crops.”
As export markets continue to hand down more stringent limits on pesticide residues and approved chemistries, growers will continue to seek out biocontrol products to control pests such as Diamondback moth in their fields, Andrea Holeman, Marketing Manager, Suterra, says.
“Sprayable pheromones have proven to effectively control pest populations and the damage they create, while satisfying the multitude of regulations growers face,” Holeman says. “For Suterra, the 2023 season will see continued partnership with growers using sprayable pheromones to innovate application methods, including drones and aerial applications.”
At Valent USA, targeted chemistry controls pests such as lepidoptera larvae (caterpillars or worms). Additionally, according to Mike Riffle, Director of Field Research and Development, biological products fit numerous integrated pest management programs, serve as rotational tools to provide different classes of chemistry, and are often easy on beneficial insects.
“Although biological products do work similarly to conventional products in many ways, it is important to understand how and why the product works to set realistic goals,” Riffle says. “Growers should scout their fields to understand precisely which pests or diseases they are facing, select an appropriate method of control, and then study that product extensively to create a plan tailored to their needs. For questions about biological products, contact University Extension specialists, crop advisors, and retailers.”