In the last few decades, there has been a call to move away from traditional, highly toxic agricultural inputs to safer, less toxic products. By Sheila Storey.
As a result of a growing demand for safer agricultural products, there has been a greater emphasis on research into and development of biological products. This has led to a flood of new products available to producers that are often confusing to the user.
Hortgro has asked industry expert, Sheila Storey from Nemlab, to shed light on bioproducts to help producers make informed decisions and manage risks.
According to Sheila, bioproducts can be divided into two broad categories: biostimulants and biopesticides. Some products can be both a biostimulant and a biopesticide. Remember that this should be explicitly stated, says Sheila.Read More
What are biostimulants and biopesticides?
It is very difficult to find a single definition but some of the definitions include:
A biostimulant (according to Act 36 of 1947) is a fertiliser that contains a natural or synthetic substance/substances or organism/ organisms that maintains the growth or yield of plants or the physical, chemical or biological condition of the soil.
It can also be described as a “soil improver” (http://agrispex.co.za/biofertilizers-biostimulants-biopesticides.definitions-differences-challenges/).
The South African Bioproducts Organisation (SABO) defines biostimulants as products that stimulate natural processes in or on the plant, or around the roots to enhance nutrient uptake, nutrient efficiency, increased tolerance to abiotic stress, and crop quality, vigour and yield.
Jardin (2015) in a scientific paper on biostimulants defines a biostimulant as any substance or microorganism applied to plants with the aim to enhance nutrition efficiency, abiotic stress tolerance and/or crop quality traits, regardless of its nutrients content.
Definitions for biopesticides (bionematicides/natural pesticides) include a mass-produced agent manufactured from a living microorganism or a natural product, and sold for the control of plant pests (Organisation for economic co-operation and development of 2009).
The US EPA defines biopesticides as certain types of pesticides derived from such natural materials as animals, plants, bacteria and certain minerals. SABO refers to biopesticides as biocontrol agents/products. Biocontrol is defined as the use of living organisms, such as insects, or bacterial and fungal pathogens to control pest populations.
A scientific definition of biopesticides (Oguh et al., 2019) defines natural pesticides or biopesticides as pesticides made by organisms, usually for their own defence, or are derived from a natural source such as plant, animal, bacteria, and certain minerals used to control pest naturally, with less effect or no effect.
Despite the many definitions, the common thread through all the definitions is described below.
|It is a substance or microorganism.||It is either a naturally occurring organism, or is produced by a naturally occurring organism.|
|Its effect is directed at the plant; makes the plant grow better.||Its effect is directed at a particular pest. It reduces pest numbers.|
|It improves yield through the direct effect on the plant or soil.||It improves plant yield through pest control.|
“The main difference between a biostimulant and a bionematicide is the target organism. A biostimulant is aimed at improving plant growth while a biopesticide is aimed at reducing pest numbers.”
Registration requirements in SA
In SA, any product used as an agricultural input must be registered for such use under Act 36 of 1947. Although both biostimulants and biopesticides are governed under the same act, they fall under different groups and as such have different registration requirements. Biostimulants are categorised as a Group 3 fertiliser and guidelines for registration of this group were published in June 2019.
Biopesticides, also known as biological remedies, are classified as agricultural remedies and guidelines for the registration of these products were published in June 2015. NB. A product can be both a biostimulant and a biopesticide. If this is the case, it should be registered as such i.e. it should have two registration numbers.
These products follow the same guidelines as traditional fertilisers and pesticides, however some specific guidelines apply to these products. The following paragraphs highlight the guidelines relevant to the use of the product as obtained from “Guidelines for registration of Group 3 fertilisers June 2019” and “Guidelines on the data required for registration of biological/biopesticides remedies in South Africa June 2015”.
All microorganisms and metabolites contained within the product must:
- be identified using scientifically accepted procedures
- be deposited in Agricultural Research Council (ARC) culture collection or reputable culture collections in SA
- contain passport data or “microbes voucher”
- be accompanied by an approved risk assessment indicating that the microbes
that are not yet released in the South African environment are not potentially harmful to humans, plants, animals or the environment.
If the product is manufactured in SA, the following is required:
- An import permit, if an imported microorganism is used during the development of product
- A mass release permit issued by the Directorate of Plant Health or Department of Environmental Affairs
- The accession number assigned to the microbe by the manufacturer of the product and origin of the microbial culture.
If the product is imported into SA all valid permits must be submitted. These include:
- an import permit for trials
- a letter giving the applicant permission for commercialisation of the organism
- a mass release permit
- receipt of purchase with details of microbe collections name, country, genus and species identification (with up to date nomenclature).
All microorganisms and metabolites contained within the product must:
- Be identified using scientifically accepted procedures. Should include where it was isolated.
- Be deposited in Agricultural Research Council (ARC) culture collection or reputable culture collections in SA.
- Be accompanied by an approved risk assessment indicating that the microbes that are not yet released in the South African environment are not potentially harmful to humans, plants, animals or the environment.
Other requirements include:
- A mass release permit issued by the Directorate of Plant Health or Department of Environmental Affairs.
- The country of origin and all valid permits if the organism is to be sourced from another country. This includes a letter from a recognised authority, giving the applicant permission for commercialisation of the organism.
- If the organism is sourced locally, details of its source such as GPS co-ordinates or the name of the district, farm, forest or stand is required.
- Reports on the shelf life of the formulated product. Product should remain viable for at least six months.
- Formulation should not exceed contaminants ≥ 100,000 cfu/g or ml, or not exceed limits set by the Department of Health.
- Any known metabolites, i.e. primary/secondary must be reported.