If, as they say, “the customer is always right,” then using biocontrol products in your crops has gone from a nice selling point for a few willing growers to something close to a necessity for many of them. And the numbers bear that out.
Biopesticides are experiencing “exuberant growth” — 14%-17% annually (traditional products grow about 3% annually), said Tim Damico, Executive Vice President of Certis USA, who was part of a panel discussion, “Biocontrol: The Retailer and Consumer Perspective” at the Biocontrols West Conference & Expo in Carlsbad, CA, March 7-9. In the U.S., biological pesticides comprise about a $3 billion market, he said.
Other panelists included Amanda Raster, Manager, Technical Development with The Sustainability Consortium, and Arthij van der Veer, General Coordinator for North America with MPS, More Profitable Sustainability. The session was moderated by Richard Jones, Executive Editor of Meister Media Worldwide’s U.S. Horticulture Group.
Damico shared data from a study by the International Food Information Council Foundation, which found that nearly half of those polled said that it is important for food to be produced in a sustainable way. And of those who valued sustainability in the food chain, nearly 60% ranked reducing the amount of pesticides used to produce food among the top three reasons for producing food sustainably.
The challenge for growers, of course, is balancing consumer’s desire for more sustainably grown food with the economic realities of using biological solutions.
According to Raster, biopesticides are opportunities for improvement for retailers. Her organization, the Sustainability Consortium (TSC) is a global non-profit working to transform the consumer goods industry by partnering with leading companies to define, develop, and deliver more sustainable products. Retailers including Walmart, Amazon, Sam’s Club, Kroger, and Aldi are working with The Sustainability Consortium either directly or by utilizing TSC Toolkits. Raster said TSC offers members of the supply chain tools to make the process more transparent, to increase metrics standardization, and to reduce the cost and complexity of sustainability research. Food retailers are encouraged to find opportunities to source products produced in systems using integrated pest management (IPM), including the use of tools like biocontrols, and more recently, biostimulants. IPM and biological pest control can be a big advantage for growers looking to serve these retailers.
Van der Veer’s organization, MPS, has focused on certifying sustainable production systems, primarily in Europe, but increasingly in the U.S. and in other parts of the world. For him, one of the advantages of biological products the contributions they make toward a sustainable way of farming.
“Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs,” he said.
For more information on biological control methods and how you can apply them successfully in your production, make plans now to attend the upcoming Biocontrols USA East Conference & Expo.