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  • Samantha Hamilton

From Farm To Fork: Pollinators As A Vector For Optimally Effective Pesticides




Prior to presenting at Anderson Strathern’s Farm to Fork law webinar tomorrow at 10am, we wanted to share one of our regular scientific thoughts.

 

Growing populations require growing crop yields, and the pursuit of these yields has led to the use of wider varieties of pesticides and disease controls in order to prevent these organisms from extracting nutrients meant for our tables. However, pesticides are rarely targeted specifically to pest species, poisoning many other organisms that are harmless and even those that are involved in proper soil functions and the ecology which supports crop growth. Additionally, once these chemicals leach into the water table, they can poison organisms separate from the fields in which they were originally deployed. Therefore, other solutions with more judicious uses of pesticides are necessary. These sometimes employ what might seem strange delivery methods.

 

A company based in the United States, Bee Vectoring Technology (BVT), has developed a system by which minute quantities of biopesticides are transferred onto flowers that will later become fruit by commercially reared bees. The direct targeting of the pesticide to the flower, and therefore the fruit of the plant, means that it is still effective in reducing parasitism whilst keeping the actual quantity of pesticides, and therefore the impact on other organisms, very low. Their work has already resulted in an increase in yields and a reduction in disease incidence. Specifically, in the case of strawberries, an average yield increase of 18% has been noted, along with an average 35% reduction in disease incidence. Additionally, the fruit produced in this system has longer shelf lives, potentially helping to reduce waste.

 

There is substantial R&D potential for UK-based companies in the adaptation of these technologies to their own purposes. The differences in climate and specific organism varieties that are available or prevalent in the two countries and with local climates within each country are areas with room for innovative work. An area of even greater potential for development is in the expansion of crops on which the system or similar systems can be deployed. BVT currently works with strawberries, blueberries, apples, tomatoes, sunflowers, and canola. Each of these crops requires modifications to the core approach of the solution to deal with different disease assemblages. To expand to yet more crops, further development will be required, potentially using other pollinators and other pesticide chemicals. Unfortunately, grain crops such as wheat and barley are wind-pollinated, so this insect solution is not appropriate. But perhaps it would be possible to develop a different solution, more appropriate to wind pollination, inspired by these insect pollinator methods of control.

 

At Minerva Innovation Group, we have experience providing R&D tax relief for agricultural innovations that seek to increase crop yield and disease resistance, along with a myriad of projects in animal R&D. To find out more about what we do and whether you may qualify for R&D funding, tune into our presentation on 21st February at 10am via https://www.eventbrite.com/e/from-farm-to-fork-product-innovation-patents-and-rd-tax-credits-tickets-790046118207.



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