Pesky bugs including thrips, mites, whiteflies and vine weevils cause more than $100 million in damage to farmers’ crops every year. Over time, insects can become resistant to pesticides leaving farmers’ valuable crops at risk. Global industrial biotechnology company Novozymes has discovered a fungus that provides a biological solution for high value fruit and vegetable crops as well as ornamental plants.
Novozymes’ fungus, contained in the product MET52 EC, is commonly found in soil. The fungus leaves no chemical residue, has little potential for resistance and can be used with traditional insecticides.
“A few microbes a day can keep the pests away. It’s a simple solution to a decades-old agricultural problem,” said Colin Bletsky, Novozymes BioAg Global Business Development Director. “We appreciate the important role farmers play in providing our food, and we are happy to help them protect the crops they work so hard to grow.”
A friendly fungus
After a susceptible insect makes contact with the fungus, spores grow on the insect’s surface, invade its body and kill it. The fungus is harmless to most non-target, beneficial insects like the rove beetle. MET52 EC is currently available to growers in the U.S., with plans to expand globally in the near future.
Fruit and vegetable crops make up 20 percent of the total U.S. agricultural output with total cash receipts valued at $43.4 billion annually, according to the Congressional Research Service. Repeated pest damage to these crops wastes good food that could be sold in the marketplace and wastes labor, land, energy, and water used to grow the food.
U.S. demand for fruits and veggies to grow
With renewed U.S. focus on health and nutrition in light of the national obesity epidemic, demand for fruits and vegetables is expected to outpace population growth. The U.S. Department of Agriculture launched its new dietary guidelines in 2011 called ‘MyPlate’ – encouraging Americans to fill half their plate with fruits and vegetables. An additional driver promoting increased consumption of vegetables and fruit is the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008. The legislation provides grants to states to provide free fresh fruits and vegetables for students in low-income schools.