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The Latest Breakthroughs in Crop Protection Products

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They say necessity is the mother of invention, and the past decade has demonstrated that there is a growing necessity for new and better solutions in crop protection products like herbicides, pesticides, and resistant crop seeds and hybrids. So far, 2016 has been an exciting and promising year for several areas of agriculture precisely because of the research efforts being made in response to this situation.

Based on estimated population growth, by the year 2015 we must increase global food production by a whopping 70%. Considering the multitude of problems affecting the agriculture industry, such as weed resistance, loss of pollinators, and climate change, this will be no easy task. But companies like Dow AgroSciences and AgBiome are hard at work in an attempt to give us a fighting chance.

Enlist Duo – reducing drift in the US

One of the crop growing problems that has generated the most headlines in the United States recently has been the problem of drift – the undesirable and unintentional spreading of a crop protection product to non-target plants. Herbicide drift has been a very real concern for crop growers in the Midwest, where one farmer’s spray can drift onto a neighbor’s field and injure or destroy those crops.

Herbicide manufacturers put instructions on their product labels to try to prevent drift, but they require 100% compliance and can be rendered useless in certain weather conditions, depending on the wind and the specific product.

Rather than depending on these unreliable factors to control drift, Dow AgroSciences has recently developed what they call Colex-D technology, which substantially reduces the risk of drift at the molecular level and has been incorporated into their Enlist Duo herbicide. Unlike many crop protection products, Enlist Duo has a near-zero volatility and is chemically designed to form large droplets, making it less likely to be carried by wind and contaminate sensitive crops.

So far, US farmers have had the opportunity to plant Enlist corn and Enlist soybeans, with cotton in the process of being approved by the EPA. Interviews with farmers with standard crops whose neighbors are using Enlist Duo on their own fields have reported that they have had no problems at all thus far.

Arylex – new herbicide class for cereal growers in Europe

Across the pond, European cereal growers are finally getting access to a new crop protection product to help with weed resistance and other common problems. A new active compound, Arylex, also manufactured by Dow, has established a new chemical class of synthetic auxin herbicides. So far, it has proven to be highly effective at controlling many weed species in cereal crops, including several resistant weeds, while also offering growers increased flexibility in application time and conditions and a favorable toxicology and environmental profile.

Pest management with microbes

Looking to bacteria for pest control solutions in agriculture isn’t anything new – the Bt pesticide used in organic farming and in certain GMO crops like Bt corn is a natural toxin produced by the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis and has been used for almost a century – although not many breakthroughs have been made in this area of research for quite some time. There was always a tradeoff, usually to the detriment of efficacy and economic feasibility.

But AgBiome, a startup based in North Carolina, thinks they have finally managed to overcome that hurdle. The have announced the upcoming release of a broad-spectrum insecticide based entirely on microbes that are naturally found on the roots of cotton plants. According to the company, the effectiveness of their new product, which they call Howler, is on par with synthetic crop protection products.

The future of crop protection products

As we enter the last quarter or 2016, there is a feeling of cautious optimism in the agriculture industry; our need for innovative solutions will only continue to grow, so we must ensure that our research efforts are up to the task. With any luck, 2017 will bring even more promising solutions than we have seen this year.

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