Understanding biofungicides

A look at biological crop protection

Growers continue to adapt to the ever-changing world around them. So, when consumers demanded food with fewer chemical residues, many growers sought out ways to preserve the effectiveness of their pest control tools. What they discovered was the power of biological crop protection, including biofungicides and bioinsecticides.

Understanding biologicals
Looking specifically at biofungicides, these products have proven to help reduce the damage caused by diseases and pests including fungi and disease-causing bacteria.

Many of the microorganisms that make up biofungicides are naturally occurring in soils. These microorganisms are isolated and enhanced to provide growers with a new tool for their disease management plans that differs from conventional products.

While the use of biofungicides have become common practice for some growers, they remain mysterious to others. “Adding a new product to your management systems can be intimidating,” said Mila Pearce, Product Manager, Specialty Crops, with BASF’s U.S. Crop Protection. “Once growers learn more about specific biologicals, it’s easy for them to see the benefit they can have on their fields.”

Formulation matters
Pearce notes that not all biological products are made the same. “It’s important to look for a product that doesn’t have residual by-products or metabolites left over from the fermentation process,” Pearce explained. “Ensuring a clean formulation allows the bacteria to act naturally without any interference.”

Withstanding the heat
A key benefit of biological is their heat tolerance. Biologicals are especially helpful for growers in warmer climates. The bacteria in biological products can withstand temperatures between 50-130 degrees Fahrenheit and work optimally between 65-95 degrees.

Pushing it to the limits
Knowing the heartiness of biologicals’ bacteria in terms of heat tolerance, BASF pushed its product’s limits of UV light tolerance.

“In our research, we found that our biological was able to withstand conditions that you would find at the equator,” said Pearce. “When tested, Serifel biofungicide still functioned after spending seven days in intense UV light.”

“While these conditions are not typical for the everyday farmer, growers need to know that they’re using a product that is qualified for their fields,” said Pearce. “This research showed that while Serifel biofungicide is a living organism, it is hardy and robust.”

Unexpected showers
Many growers follow the weather closely every day, but there are times when it still remains unpredictable. At those moments, having a rainfast product can make all the difference.

“Many growers steer away from biologicals because they believe the product will be washed away in rain or by their irrigation system. Through research, we know that this is not true for all products,” said Pearce. “After Serifel biofungicide is sprayed, rain or an irrigation system can start less than three hours later and virtually no product will be washed away,” said Pearce.

Stewardship Standards
Like with all products, proper stewardship is vital for biological effectiveness. Pearce urges all growers to connect with their local BASF representative to learn more about Serifel biofungicide and become familiar with the best practices and label requirements on the product. This way, growers can learn how and when to use the product, and how to tell if there was an issue with the application.

“Serifel fungicide has up to one trillion more spores per application than other products,” said Pearce. “While those bacteria are microscopic, they need to be applied with the right nozzle, the right water volume and the right tank mix to spread and work correctly.”

Growers can learn more about BASF’s biological crop protection portfolio at www.agriculture.basf.com.

Always read and follow label directions.

Serifel is a registered trademark of BASF.