Biopesticides are comprised of substances that exist naturally in microorganisms and plants and whose main function is to protect the plant from insect attack.
In recent years the term biopesticides has become associated with the development of natural resources for sustainable agricultural products. These newly-discovered biological tools have proven especially successful in the realm of organic farming and are now being used to contain and, in some cases, outright eliminate some of the especially pernicious types of insects, nematodes, fungi and even some strands of complex bacteria of pathogenic origin that are present in many of the farmlands of the world.
Defined by EPA
As defined by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), biopesticides are pesticides derived from such natural materials as animals, plants, bacteria and certain minerals. In commercial terms, biopesticides include microorganisms that control pests (microbial pesticides), naturally occurring substances that control pests (biochemical pesticides), and pesticidal substances produced by plants containing added genetic material (plant-incorporated protectants). Biopesticides are employed in agriculture for controlling insects, disease, weeds and nematodes and for enhancing plant physiology and productivity.
Types of Biopesticides
Biopesticides are divided into three main groups:
- Microbial Pesticides: Their active ingredient is a microorganism that either occurs naturally or is genetically engineered. The microorganisms used in microbial biopesticides are bacteria, fungi, nematodes, protozoa, yeast and viruses.
- Biochemical Pesticides: These are substances of natural origin that control pests, but are relatively non-toxic to mammals. Biochemical biopesticides are characterized by a non-toxic mode of action that may affect a pest’s growth and development, its ability to reproduce, or pest ecology.
- Biological Control Agents: These are used for the integrated control of pests such as nematodes, predators, parasitoids and pathogens.
Each group includes a wide range of products, each with a unique mode of action.
By studying the diverse chemistries of many different plant species scientists have discovered many useful compounds that can be used as biopesticides. The different ways in which plant extracts provide pest control include:
- Fungicidal Control: Plant extracts can act as contact fungicides by disrupting cell membrane integrity, deactivating key enzymes and interfering with metabolic processes.
- Plant Growth Regulation: Some plant extracts can act as effective contact herbicides through a variety of mechanisms, such as disruption of cell membranes in plant tissue or inhibition of amino acid synthesis or enzyme production.
- Induced Resistance: Crops treated with some plant extracts produce and accumulate elevated levels of specialized proteins and other compounds that inhibit the development of fungal and bacterial diseases.
- Insect Growth Regulators: These extracts prevent insects from reaching the reproductive stage.
- Mechanical Control: Other plant extracts are powerful natural agents that act directly on weeds.
Integrated Pest Management Program for Pest Resistance (IPM)
Usually biopesticides serve as more than just sustainable practices for food production. They are also key components used in programs that benefit Integrated Pest Management (IPM) because their use reduces the amount of synthetic pesticides needed to control pests and plant diseases. Biopesticides offer a better future without affecting the overall profitability of farmers. When included in an IPM program, biopesticides used in conjunction with traditional chemicals reduce the amount of synthetic chemicals needed. As a result, not only is crop quality improved, but both workers’ health and the environment benefit.
Biopesticide Market Growth
Due to modern farming’s increasing demand for chemical-free crops, there is a significant growth in the global biopesticide market, generally exceeding the growth rates of traditional chemicals. Consumers and farmers are becoming more aware of the importance of protecting our environment, and biopesticides provide significant advantages for the challenges growers are facing today. They offer minimal impact on non-target organisms, no harmful toxics or residues, residue management, labor and harvest flexibility, and worker and environmental safety.
Biopesticides can help farmers transition away from highly toxic conventional chemical use into a sustainable, environmentally friendly agriculture.
Biopesticides have Several Key Advantages:
- No hazardous residues
- Enable harvest flexibility
- Effective tool for resistance management
- Harmless to beneficial insects
- Ensure worker safety
- Environmentally friendly
- Reduce the amount of conventional pesticides needed
- Accessible to profitable export markets
- Can be used in conventional and organic agriculture