The Next Frontier in New Active Ingredient Discovery
As agricultural companies harness the power of nature to enhance crop production, growers are being offered a new array of tools. “We are seeing a wide range of new offerings in biofungicides, bionematicides and bioinsecticides. They range from label expansions on existing products to brand new microbial strains with new modes of action,” says Mark Trimmer, managing partner of DunhamTrimmer, a market research company focused exclusively on biological agriculture.
FMC has launched three new biological solutions for U.S. growers in the past 12 months: one for specialty crops and two for use in corn. “We see biologicals as the next frontier in active ingredient discovery for crop protection,” says Rick Ekins, portfolio manager for FMC. “Our biological strategy is very specific. We are looking for new biocontrol products with real activity on target pathogens. Beyond that, we are looking at biostimulants as a means of improving our market-leading brands to provide growers with greater value.”
The company’s new biological products include:
- Fracture® Fungicide, a biopesticide for specialty crops with a mode of action that is so new it is not yet classified by FRAC Group codes.
- Ethos™ XB Insecticide/Fungicide, a formulation containing bifenthrin and a biofungicide for corn that integrates insect and disease protection in patented LFR® The biofungicide produces antifungal metabolites and colonizes roots, forming a defensive barrier to pathogens.
- A co-pack of Capture® LFR® Insecticide plus VGR™ Soil Amendment, a biostimulant that enhances water use efficiency, solubilizes phosphorus and increases nutrient uptake.
Trimmer notes that both small and large companies are investing in biopesticide and biostimulant research because it can bring new control options for various pests and enhance plants’ ability to tolerate abiotic/environmental stresses.
FMC has created an end-to-end biological platform that complements its traditional strength in synthetic crop protection chemistries and formulation. “We have a world-class discovery platform and microorganism library as well as a strategic alliance with Chr. Hansen, one of the world’s foremost authorities on microbial research and fermentation,” says Daniel van der Lelie, FMC global director of agricultural biosolutions research and development. “Biologicals will become an important part of the sustainable growth of large-acre crops. We are on the brink of making these biological products as robust as synthetic chemicals.”
There are many reasons companies and farmers are investing in biosolutions. Biologicals can:
- Provide a new source of active ingredients
- Offer new modes of action
- Complement and extend the life of existing chemistries
- Enhance resistance management strategies
- Grow with the plant, offering longer-lasting protection
- Differentiate products
- Create additional value for industry and growers
- Reduce rates of synthetic products
- Be more sustainable
Linda Kinkel, a professor of plant pathology and researcher at the University of Minnesota, notes that microbes already do things to both help and hurt crop productivity. “We are trying to push that community of microbes to support crop productivity. Microbes are another aspect of growers’ production systems that we have not had the ability to actively manage, but we are beginning to acquire that capacity,” she says.
Ekins notes, “FMC conducts rigorous testing, and we select specific biological strains with growers’ return on investment in mind. In multi-year trials, each of our biological offerings for corn increased yields on average more than nine bushels per acre.”
With approximately 40 million bacterial cells in a gram of soil, there is immense potential for new biological products. Kinkel and her research team are currently studying Streptomyces bacteria. “Streptomyces are attractive for disease suppression because of their tremendously diverse capacities to kill pathogens. Members of this genus produce about 10,000 different antibiotics, and one isolate can produce a dozen different antibiotics,” explains Kinkel.
New molecular biology tools are allowing researchers to screen and census the vast microbial populations in the soil and in plants. Tim Damico, a board of director member with the Biopesticide Industry Alliance says, “This will allow organizations to better match the microbial mix to fully optimize the soil biome around the plant.”
Damico is optimistic about the potential for biological products in Midwestern row crops. “I see widespread adoption of biological products for seed treatments and in-furrow applications. It just makes sense to put these living organisms that have a symbiotic relationship with the roots in the furrow to establish the crop and make it as healthy and productive as possible.”
Ethos XB Insecticide/Fungicide and Capture LFR Insecticide are Restricted Use Pesticides. VGR Soil Amendment is not a pesticide. Always read and follow label directions. FMC, Ethos, Fracture, VGR, Capture and LFR are trademarks of FMC Corporation or an affiliate. ©2016 FMC Corporation. All rights reserved. 16-FMC-0931 02/16