Since I became a Sunday farmer I have wanted to keep abreast with the new developments in agriculture. That includes how to combat pests and use them to one’s advantage. Bio-pesticides was one such thing. Here is an expert eye-view of the issue.
A leader in production of quality bio-control agents and its products, Bio-Control Research Laboratories of Pest Control (India) is the recipient of its National Award for Excellence in R&D Efforts in Industry in the Agro Industry Category for the years 1993 and 2007 has been selected by Government of Karnataka to train farmers in the state on utilization of bio-pesticides. Dr. K. P. Jayanth, Vice President, BCRL answers queries on bio-pesticides, its efficacy and why it’s the need of the hour
What are bio-pesticides? How are they different from the chemical pesticides?
Bio-pesticides can be defined as formulations of beneficial microorganisms. Although they are similar to chemical pesticides in some respects, they are very much different from them in the sense that they contain live organisms, as against the latter, which are formulations of synthetic chemicals. Incidentally fungal or bacterial pathogens that cause disease in plants can also be controlled by their natural enemies such as antagonistic fungi or bacteria, which are also referred to as bio-pesticides.
What are their merits of using bio-pesticides? How does it control the attack of pests?
The life of a chemical pesticide gets over the moment it kills the target pest, but this is just the beginning in the case of bio-pesticides. This is on account of the fact that beneficial microbes not just kill the target pests but also multiply on them, thus achieving capability to further spread the infection. Further, unlike chemical pesticides that have a wide host range and kill non-target organisms, including parasitoids and predators, bio-pesticides are generally target specific. Besides they do not have any adverse impact on the plant, soil and environment and also safe to the user.
Do elaborate on the cost-benefit ratio of using bio-pesticides?
Bio-pesticides are not available for management of every pest, nor effective under all agroclimatic regions, but in situations where they are effective the c:b ratio is either comparable or superior to chemical pesticides. In some situations alternate application of chemical and bio-pesticides may be more effective than either of them on their own.
Do bio-pesticides address according to crop namely cash, food, fruit and flower?
Bio-pesticides target the pests and would invariably work in any crop or stage or part of the crop that is attacked by the particular pest, provided they are applied as recommended.
Are there bio-pesticides which can prevent the onset of pest attack?
We recommend need based application of all inputs including bio-pesticides. In the case of bio-pesticides that target insects attacking aerial parts of the plant such as flowers, fruits, leaves and stems, applications are recommended only after noticing pest incidence, in turn based on monitoring using pheromone traps. However, in the case of the fungal bio-pesticide such as Metarhizium anisopliae used for control of root grubs, applications are recommended at certain stages of the crop, based on previous knowledge, since the pests are cryptic in nature. In the case of antagonistic fungi and bacteria, used for managing soil borne fungal and bacterial diseases, prophylactic application is recommended to permit the organism to multiply in the soil to prevent anticipated attack.
Why is there so low awareness about bio-pesticides?
Small and Medium Enterprises engaged in production of bio-pesticides do not have the financial muscle to adequately advertise or promote their products. Government subsidy schemes, floated for creating awareness, generally have the opposite effect since the method of implementation is faulty – lowest quotation, accepting tenders from all and sundry without proper verification of facilities, non-timely supplies to the users and poor knowledge on proper method of usage.
Which are the broad spectrum bio-pesticides available in India?
Antagonistic organisms such as Trichoderma and Pseudomonas are effective against a range of soil borne disease causing fungi and bacteria.
Who are main players in bio-pesticides industry?
BCRL established by PCI in 1981 is a pioneer in the field. Some of the reputed companies that I can think of are Agriland Biotech, Baroda; Margo Biocontrol, Bangalore; Indore Biotech.