6 Sep 2013

Bio-pesticides tipped to be as effective as chemicals

6:26 am on 6 September 2013

A scientist investigating new bio-pesticides for farm and horticulture pests and diseases says they'll be able to compete with the chemical treatments they're designed to replace.

A team from AgResearch, Plant & Food and Lincoln University has received fresh Government funding of almost $11 million to continue the work in developing natural pesticides, using micro-organisms that attack pests and diseases.

They will be targeting some of the most destructive diseases, such as the PSA bacterium that's blighted the kiwifruit industry.

Project leader Maureen O'Callaghan of AgResearch said one of the challenges is overcoming the perception that bio-pesticides aren't as good as chemicals.

She said earlier bio-pesticides were perceived as being expensive, people considered that they have lower efficacy, farmers might not see a rapid knock-down of a pest when they use a bio-pesticide and it may be slower than pest control using a chemical.

Dr O'Callaghan said bio-pesticides can also be trickier to use because they are living organisms. Scientists want to move the next generation of bio-pesticides along to remove some of those limitations.

"So we need to be able to produce bio-pesticides at a cost that's comparable to chemicals so that they'll be taken up into mainstream agriculture, we also need to improve the efficacy so what we'll be looking at in this programme is some new modes of action and improving the activity of them."

Dr O'Callaghan said the research is also considering the use of a combination of microbial agents in one product.