Future watch

Finding natural alternatives to traditional insecticides

Tests on strawberry plants saw the elimination of vine weevils over two-year programme.

November 10, 2018


Welsh biopesticide business Bionema is developing natural products to protect crops from insect damage, reducing the use of synthetic pesticides, enhancing food security and increasing crop yields.

It is estimated that crop pests cause more than $50 billion damage worldwide annually. Traditional chemical insecticides are environmentally damaging and can impact human health. They are increasingly subject to withdrawal on regulatory grounds. The European Union has announced that it will ban the world’s most widely used insecticides from all fields due to the serious danger they pose to bees. Moreover, many insects are becoming resistant to these traditional insecticides. The market needs to find environmentally acceptable, safe, cost-effective solutions for tackling crop pests.

Bionema Ltd, a spin-out from Swansea University, is one of a number of companies that are looking at biological alternatives. With support from Swansea University and the Development Bank of Wales, Bionema has successfully developed and brought to market a range of nematode-based products for both the professional and domestic markets, aimed at tackling some of the UK’s most damaging pests.

Dr Minshad Ansari, founder of Bionema, comments:

“At Bionema we bring together strong scientific research with the power of the natural world to develop solutions which not only show higher efficacy than other products on the market, but also protect the environment and don’t pass on any residues into the crops they protect”.

Tests on strawberry plants saw the elimination of vine weevils over a two-year programme, and a golf course in the east of England saw 80 per cent removal of its chafer grub problem in the first year with further success in year two. This is the same grub that caused Epsom racecourse to cancel a meeting in September this year.

ADAS has calculated the economic cost of chafer grubs alone at up to £85 million a year for golf courses in the UK, from lost income and damage repair. The report also highlighted that on the 40 per cent of racecourses affected by the pest’s damage, lost income could amount to up to £605,000 per course. In addition to chafer grub and vine weevils, the current range of products tackles western flower thrips, leatherjackets, sciarid larvae and fungus gnat.

Bionema has also been awarded an Innovate UK grant to develop a fungi based solution that will revolutionise the market, both in terms of efficacy and distribution method. The company is shortly due to launch a funding round to complete the development and registration of these novel formulations.

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by Editor