Home Events/Summit Adoption of Biocontrol Products Around the Globe Continues to Grow

Adoption of Biocontrol Products Around the Globe Continues to Grow

Ketan Mehta, CEO, Ecosense Labs

Regulation, consumer demand, resistance, and increased manufacturing costs of traditional pesticides contribute to biopesticide product popularity.

Biocontrols Around the Globe

The biopesticide market was $1.9 billion in 2014, according to David Cary, IBMA’s Executive Director. That segment of the industry is expected to grow between 15% and 20% annually. There are approximately 230 biopesticide manufacturers (not including China and India) with about 98 of those in the Americas and 91 in Europe.

Cary estimates there are 450 actives that are used in about 2,300 products among the microbials, semiochemicals, and natural products comprising the segment.

Biocontrol products are used around the world and though a small percentage of the crop protection market, appear to be gaining ground and are being used on a wider variety of crops. Several presenters from around the world gave updates at the most recent ABIM show, which was held in Basel, Switzerland late last year.

To date market penetration has been most notable in protected crops and high value crops such as fruits and vines. A lot of activity is now being concentrated on broadening this market penetration to some of the lower value large usage markets. This has been with dedicated products, mixtures with conventional plant protection products, use of innovative delivery systems and other uses of technology. IBMA members continue to be at the forefront of innovation in agriculture. Farmers and their representative bodies across the globe are calling for more green tools and are certainly taking the responsibility of sustainable agriculture as a firm challenge and commitment.

Attendance and participation at
ABIM echo the buzz and interest the biocontrols industry is generating at the moment. This is expected to only increase during 2017.


India’s biological product segment during the 2014-2015 growing season was about $500 million, with the bulk of that (about $315 million) from biostimulants, said Ketan Mehta, CEO, Ecosense Labs. (India) Pvt. Ltd. That segment can be further broken down with seaweed extracts, humics, amino acids, chelates accounting for about $230 million and microbials, biological nutrient elicitors, and enhancers accounting for the other about $85 million.

Biocontrol products are about $185 million market in India, Mehta says. Of that, about $20 million comes from plant extracts (neem, pyrethrum, karanjin, garlic and other products). Semiochemicals (pheromones for ag and storage) account for about $15 million. About $115 million is spent on microbials (bacterial, fungus, viruses, etc.). The remainder is attributed
to macrobials and products for home/garden usage.

India has more than 150 registrants of botanicals and more than 200 registrants
of microbials.

India’s Most Popular Biocontrols

Botanicals: Azadirachtin, Pyrethrum, Karanjin, Garlic

Ketan Mehta, CEO, Ecosense Labs

Products made with these botanticals help provide control of caterpillars, mites sucking pests and fungal diseases.

Microbials : Trichoderma, Pseudomonas, Bacillus, Beauveria, Metarhizium, Verticillium

Products made with these microbials help provide control of mites, sucking pests, caterpillars and fungal/bacterial diseases.

Semiochemicals : Pheromones are used to help treat Heliothis, Spodoptera, Fruit fly, Yellow/Rice Stem Borer, Tuta absoluta, Pink Bollworm, Indianmeal Moth, Cigarette beetle, Sweet Potato Weevil, and others


Brazil continues to be one of the largest players in the crop protection market. Like in many areas around the world, biologicals play an increasingly important role in that segment. According to Pedro Faria Jr., President of ABCBio, there are signs of exhaustion in the current system of agricultural pest control.

According to Faria, biologicals accounted for about 2% of the total crop protection market in 2015. While the overall market is growing there Brazil experienced a decrease in gross sales of biological insecticides (Bt). At the same time, the country saw an increase in sales of biological fungicides for the control of soil-borne diseases and Trichogramma sp. in sugar cane and other row crops. Unfortunately, growers have also been forced to deal with an increased market share of illegal Bt and Trichoderma spp. formulated products.

Pedro Faria Jr., President of ABCBio

Faria suggests four drivers pushing growers to use more biological products:

High rate of resistance of pest populations to chemical products used in crop protection
• Increase of production costs due to low efficiency in pest control
• Society pressure for food with no chemical contaminants
• Search for a lower environmental impact solution
That said, there are still several challenges to overcome before biological products are adopted for use at the same rate as their traditional counterparts.
For starters, the legislation around registration of biological products needs to be improved. Inspectors and regulatory agencies need to revamp the process for registration, Faria says. In addition the country has too many “homemade bio-factories that make products with no quality control.
Compounding that there are non-registered biological products that exploit the same niche market of legalized companies and elude the oversight of inspectors, Faria says.
Faria lists several other factors slowing wider use in Brazil:
• Low number of biological active ingredients registered
• Lack of marketing strategies for wide dissemination of knowledge
• The need to develop better positioning strategies of formulated products for maximum efficiency of biological active ingredients
• The need to develop biological active ingredients and formulated products to control foliar diseases
• Lack of official extension service for biological control
• Lack of credit lines for resellers and distributors
• Lack of adequate training of commercial agents
Whatever challenges exist, the opportunities are many. A new generation is preparing to take charge of agricultural production in Brazil that is even more receptive to adopting biological products into their crop protection programs.
Whether it is the major technological advances that deliver more effective products, precision agriculture tools, a new generation of fertilizers, new formulas of biopesticides, and the adoption of Integrated Pest Management, all have been enhanced by access and use of the internet, Faria said.

Africa’s diverse geographic, political, and climatological variations make it nearly impossible to provide a comprehensive overview of the continent’s approach to biological use. Here we’ll focus on two sub Saharan countries — South Africa and Kenya.

South Africa

South Africa is battling one of the worst droughts the country has ever seen, which has limited the production of many crops, in particular summer grains and oilseeds. And, not surprisingly, it’s having an effect on growers According to data from the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service, “farmers’ gross income from field crops is expected to drop by 8% in 2016 to $3.4 billion, bringing field crops’ contribution to South Africa’s total agricultural sector down from 28% in 2014 to 21% in 2016,” according to the South Africa Department of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries.

In addition to the challenges imposed by the climate, changing attitudes toward traditional inputs have begun to transform the way South African growers manage their crops. In an increasingly interconnected world, growers recognize a need to deliver fruits and vegetables that satisfy the ever-growing demand for food raised with fewer traditional chemical inputs.

One of the biggest changes to take place in biocontrol usage is the move from specialty crops to row and perennial crops. In South Africa, this is taking place within both the domestic and export markets, says Andre Fox, Chairperson of the South African Bioproducts Organization (SABO) Steering Committee. “South Africa is lucky in that they have forward-thinking growers currently using macrobials and microbials, like bacteria, fungi, viruses, and then also plant extracts to produce a consumer-friendly product,” Fox says.


Kenya is the economic hub of East Africa and has averaged real GDP growth of over 5% for the last seven years.

Agriculture remains the backbone of the Kenyan economy, contributing 25% of GDP, according the the CIA Factbook. About 80% of Kenya’s population of roughly 42 million work at least part-time in the agricultural sector and more than 75% of agricultural output is from small-scale, rain-fed farming or livestock production.

Dudutech’s Tom Mason breaks those numbers down further. Kenya’s agriculture is predominantly smallholder farmers — 3.5 million. Only 50% of smallholder farmers participate in  commercial farming with 70% use fertilizer and 30% use certified seed. The country has 75 agchem manufacturers and more than 7,000 ag dealers to serve those growers.

Mason shared these statistics during a presentation at ABIM in October, in Basel, Switzerland. Kenyan growers have a long way to go before they match the global yield average. Farm productivity in Kenya amounts to 1.6 mt/ha for maize, he says. The global average sits at 6 mt/ha. About 43% of Kenya’s population is food insecure.

There are several factors complicating growth:

  • Farmers lack information about right type of farm inputs, right application, and right time of use
  • Poor rural roads and other key physical infrastructure have led to high transportation costs for agricultural inputs and services
  • Low agro-dealer investment in the
    rural areas
  • Insufficient access to soil testing services to determine the soil nutrition, pests, and diseases

There is room for hope. Mason points to a number of positives. More than 2.45 million farmers will be using quality inputs in 10 years, he says. And more than 3 million farmers will have improved access to inputs, usage, and performance. In addition, large companies are investing in improved distribution and farmer support, Mason says.

As the country looks to build the crop input market, Dudutech is working to expand the use of biocontrol products. The company is participating in a trial with 500 farmers who are using biocontrol products on small-scale trial plots.

Established agro-dealers can store and provide technical support to a range of biocontrol technologies. At the same time, farmers are trained and champions appointed to spread the message. To help the program be successful, a number of regulatory, industry, non-governmental, and governmental authorities are involved.

The next steps will include scaling up the program and integrating with other biocontrol providers, and organizations.


Depending on how it’s calculated, Japan is fourth or fifth largest chemical pesticide market in the world. In terms of the number of patents issued, Japan is behind only Germany, Switzerland, and the U.S.

Biopesticides, however, have yet to gain wide acceptance in the country even though in Asia, Japan is a leading country in IPM.

Tetsuo “Tommy” Wada, Consul for Arysta Lifescience Japan

Japan’s biopesticides sales are relatively small compared with that of chemical pesticides and growth is sluggish, according to Tetsuo “Tommy” Wada, Consul for Arysta Lifescience Japan.
The country’s growers are more accustomed to and more often choose traditional chemical pesticides.

Wada suggests government intervention could help increase the use of biopesticides, suggesting a compulsory “spray calendar” that would require growers to use biocontrol products at certain times of the year or not to use low LD50 products in greenhouse or even outdoor.

One of the challenges to introducing biopesticides into the market is the strict registration process. Data requirements include approximately three years of field or greenhouse efficacy trials and six valid and efficacious results for each pest on each crop. The registration process must follow very strict standards and can take normally five years after starting of efficacy trials. For microbial pesticides, the requirements are even more strict with registration guidelines similar to that of the U.S. EPA. Pathogenicity studies of approximately five routes are required.

Wada is not opposed the registration process. It makes the product quality better and without stringent regulation, lower quality products would prevail, he says.

“So the reasonable regulation and registration system of biopesticides are good to the Industry,” Wada says.

Many growers have adopted an integrated pest management approach to crop protection. Currently, 95% of pest control is done with chemical pesticides, Wada said. The strawberry and sweet pepper markets in greenhouses are largely protected by IPM method.


By Dan Jacobs

Contact Dan: [email protected]