Biopesticide work paving way to sustainable future

A new research programme has been launched to develop the next generation of biopesticides to meet global demand for chemical residue-free produce and sustainable production systems.

​The research will be undertaken by a multi-disciplinary team of researchers from AgResearch, Lincoln University and Plant & Food Research, working together in the Bio-Protection Research Centre, based at Lincoln.

The six year project has received $1.8 million per annum in the latest Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment science funding round.

Biopesticides, sometimes referred to as microbial pest control agents, are bacteria, viruses, fungi, protozoa and nematodes and/or bioactive compounds produced directly from these microbes, which are used to suppress populations of pests, including insects and plant diseases.  The project is being led for AgResearch by Lincoln-based Soil Microbiologist Maureen O’Callaghan.

“We will develop next generation biopesticides for the most production-limiting pests and diseases as identified by pastoral, horticultural and arable sector representatives and our industry partners,” she says.

“Use of these novel biopesticides in mainstream agriculture will result in more high quality and chemical residue-free whole-foods and ingredient exports, with high international market access acceptability.”

The project is targeting some of the most financially damaging pests and diseases such as the devastating disease Psa in kiwifruit and intractable and emerging pests of pasture, forage brassicas and arable crops, which can seriously affect both dairy and meat and grain production.

“Significant economic benefits to the pastoral, horticultural and arable sectors will also accrue through input savings, recovered productivity and continued assured market access for exports.”

The research builds on breakthroughs in precursor MBIE programmes and uses innovative approaches to deliver prototype biopesticides characterised by rapid knockdown of pests, low cost and multiple modes of action to target pest complexes and prevent development of resistance.

The project is also being supported by partners in the horticultural and pastoral agriculture sector, including Ballance Agri-Nutrients Ltd, Biotelliga Ltd, Grasslanz Technology Ltd, Zespri, Kiwifruit Vine Health and the Foundation for Arable Research.

Bioprotection capability and new linkages with Maori stakeholders will be developed through the Te Matapuna Kaupapa Maori Unit of the Bio-Protection Research Centre and links through the team’s commercial partners.

For more information about the Bio-Protection Research Centre, visit www.bioprotection.org.nz