The Emerging World of Biopesticides in the Vineyard

As grape growers know, vineyards have common primary diseases, such as powdery mildew, botrytis and sour rot in the western US and downy mildew, black rot and Phomopsis in the eastern US. Many growers prefer to moderate the use of pesticides, or to be organic or sustainable. Modern thought is that we don’t want to use a lot of pesticides if we don’t need to. We want to find a way to mitigate the pests, grow healthy, strong fruit and have healthy soil for years to come. We don’t want to see pesticides seeping into the ground water and decimating our planet. Enter the philosophy of an Integrated Pest Management system (IPM), a complex mode of action for disease management.

Integrated Pest Management’s key drivers are global food security, climate change, environmental pollution and sustainability. Nowadays growers must have a huge range of knowledge. For example, they must know the life stages of vineyard pests and when they are most easily controlled. They need to understand sampling procedures: when, where and what to look for. They must be aware of cultural and biological controls as preventatives and judicious use of chemicals. They must know the pest population levels that are likely to cause problems and if there are predators and parasitoids that can control them. This is where biopesticides can play a key role.

Biopesticides are monitored by the EPA, which supports their registration, therefore we should use their definition.

Certain types of pesticides derived from such natural materials as animals, plants, bacteria and certain minerals. They have no unreasonable adverse effects to human and the environment to permit their sale and distribution. They have low to zero pesticide residue.

Also, according to the EPA there are three major classes of biopesticides:

First, biochemical pesticides are naturally occurring substances that control pests by non-toxic mechanisms. (Conventional pesticides, by contrast, are generally synthetic materials that directly kill or inactivate the pest.) Biochemical pesticides include substances that interfere with mating, ( insect sex pheromones), plant extracts and fatty acids or soaps such as Kaligreen and M-pede (that dissolve the cuticle on the outside of arthropod’s bodies, causing them to lose moisture and desiccate).

Second, microbial pesticides consist of a microorganism (for example a bacterium, fungus, virus or protozoan) as the active ingredient. These pesticides can control many different kinds of pests, although each separate active ingredient is relatively specific for is target pest. Some produce toxins that kill the pest when ingested. Some fungi kill the pest by filling up the body cavity and other microbes don’t kill their host but render it ineffective as a pest. The most

widely used microbial pesticides are subspecies and strains of Bacillus thurningiensis (Bt) and Bacillus subtilis.

Third, plant-incorporated-protectants (PIPs) which are pesticidal substances that plants produce from genetic material that has been added to the plant. This would be a gene taken for the Bt pesticidal protein and introduced into the gene of the plant’s own genetic material. Then the plant, instead of the Bt bacterium, manufactures the substance that destroys the pest. The protein and its genetic material, but not the plant, are regulated by the EPA.

Biopesticides are gaining interest because of the advantages associated with environmental safety, target-specificity, efficacy, biodegradability and suitability in the IPM programs. They are attracting global attention as safer strategy to manage pest populations such as weeds, plant pathogens and insects while posing less risk to human being and the environment. Their use is increasing steadily by 20% growth rate. As of April 2016 there are 299 registered biopesticide active ingredients and 1401 active biopesticide product registrations.

World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit

San Francisco hosted the World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit in March 2018. Guy Elitzur, STK Bio-Ag Technologies CEO from Petah Tikvah, Israel, and US National Sales Director Neal Job presented about the biopesticides market and the future of products created to assist growers.

STK specializes in the developing and marketing of plant extract based biopesticides. Its core focus is on their integration alongside conventional chemical products, into conventional agricultural spraying programs, and creating a balanced, cleaner and sustainable agricultural environment. STK has a variety of products adapted to regional needs, biological parameters and regulatory guidelines. It is active in more than 35 countries.

Their flagship product, Timorex Gold, is used to control a broad spectrum of crop diseases. It is registered and sold in 27 countries. Timorex Gold, won the AGROW Awards Best New Biopesticide in 2013. It is a powerful and effective biofungicide which helps the grower reach sustainable production in a greener and sustainable agricultural environment.

“Biopesticides have gained greater acceptance, especially over the last decade, and growers now see synthetics and biologics as complementary tools that work well together,” Jon Amdursky, Media Relations for STK said. “Where there used to be an acrimonious relationship with chemical pesticides 10-15 years ago, now they’re married.

“Timorex Gold is a stable plant extract from the Tea Tree,” Neal Job, US National Sales Director explained. “It is effective worldwide. It doesn’t work better in a specific climate,

it works in all climates. Chile, China, Peru, Brazil. It has the same efficacy, same performance.”

“Timorex has been very effective with 15 fruits and vegetables crops in 30 countries around the world,” Elitzur said. “Grapes, , bananas, berries, lettuce, rice and coffee to name some. In Florida we’re having great success with their fresh market tomatoes.”

Elitzur explained that each country and sometimes states has its own regulations. There is a unique pathway with the Environmental Protection Agency that favors development and registration of biologics, so the market has a lot of options for growers. It’s a crowded market because growers are used to lots of innovation. Products really have to perform well, and growers will figure out if they don’t. Timorex Gold is approved by OMRI in Canada and other countries, but not the US. In 2019, Timorex Act will be introduced to the US market and that will be USA OMRI certified.

“Resistance, to biopesticides is a problem. It is similar to how antibiotics work in humans” Says Elitzur. “With repeated use they become less and less effective. That is what happens with plants. The natural compounds in Timorex Gold makes it a unique sustainable solution. It is easy to use and requires no special handling using standard spraying technologies (land or air).

Timorex Gold is a multi-site product , due to of over 100 different terpenes that compose the a.i. with different mode of actions and is also safe to most beneficial insects and bees. It can be used in rotations with other products, in tank mixtures and as a stand-alone product. It can be applied year round without inducing fungi resistance.

“For the grape grower, we have done countless specific tests with grapes with the result being that there is no negative effect on wine quality, flavor, color and skin thickness to name a few, “ Elitzur said.

Economics is, of course, a factor with farmers. “We have found that with an IPM and the use of biopesticides some economic benefits include a higher yield of grapes per acre, a higher standard of grapes, thus farmers are getting a higher price for their produce. The end result is a higher profit,” Elitzur said. This makes everyone happy.

Studies, Articles and Books

There are many interesting studies, articles and books on the subject of biopesticides. Entomologist Clifford P. Ohmart, is the editor of two seminal guides to sustainable viticulture: the Code of Sustainable Winegrowing Practices and the Lodi Winegrower’s Workbook has published a book, Vine from the Vineyard, A Practical Guide to

Sustainable Winegrape Growing, which is a primer and practical guide to the use of responsible and effective viticulural practices. He brings clarity and reason to the politically loaded world of sustainable viticulture.

Clifford has done many reviews of the use of biopesticides in California winegrape vineyards. California winegrape growers have to submit pesticide use records each month to their local agriculture commissioner. The CA Department of Pesticide Regulation summarizes this data and publishes annual Pesticide Use Reports (PUR). Since California produces 90% of the US’s grapes both premium as well as non-premium winegrapes, the PUR results are representative of the US industry as a whole.

Go to for 2014 results.

A note on biodynamic farming. Biopesticides are used by growers participating in the National Organic Program and Biodynamic farming because they are the only pesticides that meet the requirements of their respective certification standards. Since the acreage enrolled in these programs is increasing, the use of biopesticides is increasing as a result.

Go to: And

For a significant case study in the efficacy of properly used biopesticides in the successful eradication of the European grapevine moth (EGVM) in Napa Valley go to

Through the use of biopesticides including materials containing Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) and spinosad, growers timed their applications to match the predicted life cycle of EGVM, particularly in the first generation. Pheromone confusion was also a part of the management programs used by some growers. It was concluded that growers using biopesticides played a critical role in the successful eradication of EGVM.

According to Ohmart, “Even though the overall use of biopesticides in US vineyards is still only a very small portion of the total pounds of active ingredients applied for pest management control, it is clear they play an important role in specific situations where reduced risk pesticides are either required or fit into the philosophy and strategy of sustainable wine grape growers.”

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