Embrapa predicts spike in biological pesticide use in Brazil

Marcelo Morandi, general manager of Embrapa Environment and the coordinator of Working Group on Biological Control of the Plant Health Committee of the Southern Cone (COSAVE), gave an interview to Portal Global Agrochemicals on biological controls in Brazilian agriculture market, along with Robson Barizon, a researcher from Embrapa Environment, which researches of environmental dynamics of pesticides.
Morandi has been with Embrapa Environment since 2001 and has also served as Professor of Plant Pathology at UniRV-GO and for Environmental Microbiology at PUC-Campinas. He holds a Bachelor’s degree and a Master’s degree in Agronomy (Plant Pathology) from the Universidade Federal de Viçosa and a PhD on Agronomy (Plant Pathology) in the “Sandwich program” from the University of Guelph in Canada and also from the Federal University of Viçosa.
Barizon holds a Bachelor’s degree in Agronomy from the Federal University of Paraná, and has a Master’s degree in agronomy from UNESP and a PhD in Agronomy (Soil and Plant Nutrition) from USP. He has also worked with various private enterprises as a researcher in the area of dynamics of pesticides and as an environmental risk analyst for South America.
1. Brazil is one of the leading pesticide consuming countries in the world due to various factors, such as large acreage and the number of possible yields from the same culture in a small space of time. In general, how do you evaluate the use of agricultural pesticides in Brazil? Are there some practices that can be improved?
The bonus that we have in Brazil is that we are in a tropical zone, which allows us to two or even three crops a year. Pest pressure arising from the “green bridge,” boosts prices, that is, the constant availability of plants and appropriate climate results in the multiplication of these pests. This implies the need for a plant protection strategy that takes into account this intensification.
Thus, there is a need to improve phytosanitary practices, respecting the principles of integrated management—in which there is a severe setback in recent years—which includes, besides the use of agrochemicals, crop rotation practices, fertility management, areas of refuge, the correct use of application technologies and strengths/appropriate frequency, introducing biological methods in pest control in production systems, etc.
In part, the use of pesticides in Brazil is justified by the position players in the commodity markets and other agricultural products. However, in terms of use of agrochemicals per unit area, the country is in an intermediate position in global terms. Despite this intermediate position, the trend is for high consumption per unit area, especially the emergence of resistance and the introduction of new pests.
2. There are a wide range of rural producers, from small to multinational properties. Is there differentiation in the form of awareness for each of these producers regarding the correct use of agrochemicals? What are the ways being adopted currently?
Certainly, socioeconomic differences have consequences in the access to knowledge and technology producers. And this has implications for the entire production process, which includes the management of pests and diseases. Many misguided practices in the use of agrochemicals are clearly a result of the lack of appropriate technical assistance, especially in the less capitalized producers and with less access to knowledge and technology.
But, on the other hand, even among the large producers many phytosanitary practices have been adopted incorrectly or without technical criteria that meets the principles of IPM, such as, the “scheduled” application of agrochemicals and non-integration with other management methods in the planning for cultivation (crop rotation, fallowing, refuge areas, rotation of active ingredients and others).
3. Embrapa performs a lot of research for improvement in the use of pesticides, including through partnerships with companies of this segment. What are the key trends and technologies expected to further enhance the correct application of agrochemicals?
The broader trend is towards the improvement of the effectiveness of application technologies, with a focus on the achievement of the target and with minimal losses to the environment, which consequently reduces the impact on the environment and on the production system, with the reduction of the pressure of resistance selection to active principles.
Advances in knowledge about the environmental dynamics of pesticides will improve both formulations as application technologies, promoting the protection of the environment.
Besides, it is known that there is a fatigue of the conventional methods in the control of pests and diseases, based only on the application of agrochemicals. It demands new strategies of rational, intelligent and responsible use of the integration of biological and natural solutions in the production system.
4. What is your projection for Brazilian agribusiness in 2017? How will such a scenario impact the pesticides market?
As the industry is heated, with a forecast for an increased harvest of grains, fruits and other agricultural products, and the prices are competitive, on both the national and international market, the trend is also heating up for the use of inputs, including pesticides.
Even this is a yellow light that we need to actually redesign the plant model adopted in our agriculture.
5. Marcelo, you are today the coordinator of the Working Group on Biological Control of the Plant Health Committee of the Southern Cone, and also have experience in the field of biological control. What is your expectation for the use of this method of treatment for the next few years?
Considering the new trends that have impacted the agricultural market, given regulatory pressure on waste management of agrochemicals in food, more stringent assessments and limiting the records of new agrochemicals, need for management of pest resistance for active principles, the search for new products of biological origin have accelerated sharply in the last decade.
Organic products have been sought with an emphasis on being a resistance management tool; alternatives to the lack of efficient agricultural chemicals against some groups of pests (e.g., pathogens served by soil); safe products, which leave no residues and contamination and minimize environmental impact.
In Brazil, there are already 132 companies registered in MAPA for the commercialization of organic products, including from small national companies to large multinationals in the agrochemical sector. In 2007, the Brazilian Association of Biological Control (ABCBio) was created, and it very active in both regulatory and market develpoment.
The world market currently hovers around US$3 billion, with an above-average growth trend expected for the agrochemical market. In Brazil, the organic market represents from 1 to 2 percent of the market for pesticides.
Organic products will not completely replace conventional chemicals, but they certainly will play a role in filling the vacuum of market due to ban of conventional chemicals or loss of efficiency caused by resistance, in addition to covering specific market niches, as those with certificates and an ecological basis.
There are actions required to promote the growth of an industry of biopesticides and their effective use in your production system. Some limitations, such as environmental factors and conditions have already been dealt with through improvements in formulation technology, advances in biotechnology and an increased understanding of the physiology of micro-organisms. Change the model a-a-a (a biological control agent for a pathogen) to a combination of organisms to increase the spectrum of action and the effectiveness of control has evolved. This new concept fits with the objectives of the IPM and increases the efficacy of bio-control and your credibility.
Biological control is no longer the “ugly duckling” of plant health. It is today a robust and recognized science. Technical and technological solutions to the key challenges are available in the R&D institutions and companies (advances in computational biology, molecular biology, analytical chemistry, statistics, etc. that allow the understanding of plant-pathogen interactions). The social and environmental impact of biological control, are (to some extent) known to the consuming public, who demand for more sustainable practices in food production.
Thus, a burgeoning “innovation ecosystem” is under development, with the emergence and strengthening of innovative companies in the industry.

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