South American countries produce over half of the world’s soybean crops. In this region, Brazil and Argentina are the largest producers.
Soybean is the most important commodity in Brazilian agribusiness and is the main export product of Argentina. Such an economically important crop demands solutions to protect it from Asian soybean rust, caterpillars and other pests that cause considerable economic damage. Biopesticide markets in the region have entered a rapid growth stage, to meet the demand for sustainable crop protection products.
In this report, Gustavo Shiomi, Portfolio Manager of AgBiTech, Renato Seraphim, Chief Marketing Officer of UPL Brasil, Rob Gibson, Senior Global Portfolio Manager of Certis Biologicals, André Dias, Executive Director LATAM at Kynetec, and Santiago Oldani, Marketing and Technical Service Manager of Tropfen, will share their views on biopesticides and their market potential in the Brazilian and Argentine soybean markets.
What are the main target pests of soybean that are controlled by biopesticides in Brazil/Argentina? Could you give us some examples?
AgBiTech: The main target pests in Brazil are Nematodes, Caterpillars, White flies and Burrower bugs.
Nematodes – Bionematicides account for the biggest share of the soybean biopesticide market in Brazil, making up 44% of all biologic products sold in 2021/22. The adoption of bionematicides even recently surpassed their chemical counterparts. Examples of products in this segment are Bacillus subtilis, Paecilomyces lilacinus, Bacillus methylotrophicus and Bacillus amyloliquefaciens. [1-2]
Caterpillars are becoming a more serious issue, as biotechnologies (transgenic traits) and chemicals are consistently losing their efficacy. Brazilian farmers have to spray twice on average for caterpillars on most BT soybean areas and thrice on non-BT areas. Main species of caterpillars that attack the crop include Spodoptera spp, Helicoverpa spp and Rachiplusia nu. The segment of bioinsecticides for caterpillars is basically Baculovirus (virus) and Bacillus thuringiensis (bacteria).
White flies (Bemisia tabaci) and Burrower bugs (Scaptocoris castanea) are not as relevant as the first two examples but are worth mentioning. Fungi, such as Isaria fumosorosea, are used to control white flies, and Metarhizium anisopliae or Beauveria bassiana are used for Burrower bugs.
Tropfen: The main pests of soybean crops controlled by biopesticides in Argentina are fungi. They affect the seed during the birth and establishment of the crops. Currently there is a large number of biofungicides in the Argentine market based on Thricoderma harzianun and other organisms, applied as seed treatment.
What are your views on the cost effectiveness of biopesticides for soybeans?
UPL: Brazilian farmers have adopted more biocontrol in their properties. More than 50% of our growers use these solutions to help them control pests and diseases, as well as improve the quality of their crops. Soybeans and sugarcanes are the crops that see more use, being the biggest market for nematicides and insecticides. The main reason for this use is the rising incidence of pest and disease resistance, and the use of these solutions is assisting traditional crop chemicals in improving control. In addition, the declining costs of these products and the incentive from the federal government to release new products are making them more popular with farmers.
Actually, multinationals, such as Syngenta, Corteva and UPL, and large Brazilian companies, such as Biotrop, Agrivalle and Vittia, dominate the market, but due to the low barrier of entry (low investments, lower bureaucracy), there are more than 400 companies offering products for farmers. Many farmers are also building their own biological plants within their properties.
With all these treatments, cost effectiveness improved considerably, making their use more attractive to farmers. Actually, this market is growing by more than 20% every year.
AgBiTech: Our experience with over 12 million hectares applied with baculovirus in Brazil shows us that this technology is one of the best tools for mitigating the risk for growers and reducing costs. Biopesticides are key tools to keep treatment costs down for growers because it breaks down the pest resistance paradigm where growers need to spray higher rates and make more applications to control insects, a hybrid approach using biopesticides provides an excellent and economical choice for growers. Our research showed a 23% reduction in costs for soybean fields sprayed with baculovirus, considering the whole insecticide program of the season. The virus spreads through the area and makes the target caterpillars sick, reducing the number of applications and/or the cost of insecticides applied during the season. In our case, AgBiTech was founded with a clear focus on delivering highly cost effective biopesticides to row crop farmers.
The on-farm production of bacteria and fungi is growing exponentially in Brazil year after year, which represents a significant reduction in costs for farmers. The processes however must be done responsibly to make sure of the quality and safety of the final product.
What do you think about the cost effectiveness of biopesticides applied in combination with chemicals?
Certis Biologicals：Considering the advantages biologicals offer alongside synthetic chemistries, we believe they are an affordable part of overall soybean management plan.
Biologicals offer positive ROI through yield enhancement, crop and soil health, nutrient efficiency, and enhanced resistance management. The flexibility to apply with chemistries in a foliar, in-furrow, or seed treatment application also cuts down on labor and water usage.
Kynetec: It is not about cost effectiveness. It is about efficiency and Integrated Pest Management programs for resistance prevention.
Unless you have a strict organic production protocol, where most chemicals cannot be applied, then it is about having a biological pesticide that can control the pest and be used alongside conventional products.
What biopesticides applied on soybean will be key crop protection tools?
Kynetec: In Brazil, the key biopesticides are bionematicides, bioinsecticides, biofungicides for soybean (for rust, Corynespora and white mold).
What soybean pests are not controlled by biopesticides, as no biosolution is available for them in Brazil/Argentina?
AgBiTech: Stink bugs (ex: Dichelops furcatus and Euschistus eros) are good examples of species that occur in soybeans that cannot yet be controlled by biopesticides. There are some macro biological tools (Telenomus podisus) that are available in the market against stink bugs, however, they are still in early stages of commercial adoption.
Other examples: Coleoptera such as Aracanthus spp and Diabrotica speciosa.
UPL: We have many pests, diseases and weeds where farmers do not have any biological to control. The biggest concern in Brazil is RUST, and it is impossible to control this disease with only biologicals. We need to make a very good base with chemicals such as Mancozeb, Triazoles, Strobilurins and Carboxamidas, and introduce new biologicals or biostimulants to help in the control.
I think that developing a biosolution for weed resistance management would be a breakthrough for this market.
Tropfen: Today, the biggest pest of soybean crops is weeds. There are ongoing developments, but there is no biosolution that is being widely adopted as a tool to combat them.
What innovative technologies do you offer to the Brazilian/Argentine soybean market? Do you plan to launch new products for the crop?
AgBiTech: AgBiTech is already the market leader in baculovirus-based bioinsecticides in Brazil, with several products focused on caterpillar control. We invest heavily in R&D to continue to bringing new products to the market. Some of the highlights are:
- We are launching Disseminate this season for controlling Rachiplusia nu, a caterpillar that is quickly becoming resistant to soybean traits (GMO). We were able to bring this product to market quickly to give growers a safe and cost-effective tool for controlling this pest.
- We are in final phase of developing a new Baculovirus-based product for Spodoptera frugiperda in soybeans, corn, cotton and other crops. Moreover, we are working on new formulations to enhance field performance.
- We are revolutionizing caterpillar control by targeting moths even before they lay eggs. This is an attractant technology that control the adults of Lepidopterans. The strategy is to attract and kill the moths that would otherwise lay eggs and generate thousands of caterpillars, therefore, reducing the pressure caused by the pest in the field.
Certis Biologicals：We offer a range of Bacillus-based products, as well as, Beauveria, Isaria, Neem and Azadirachtin-based products within our robust LATAM biopesticide portfolio. Overall, we have 34 LATAM product registrations. Product usage varies across LATAM, so it is best to check with your local representative when targeting specific pests and crops, like soybeans.
Our goal is to provide sustainable, effective crop solutions to meet increasing demand for Integrated Pest Management (IPM) solutions. Much of our innovation involves formulation improvements to increase grower convenience and to meet channel supply chain requirements. This includes advancements in increased shelf life, optimized use rates and better tank mix compatibility.
For more than three decades, Certis has been a pioneer in the field of biological pesticides for commercial agricultural use. We are proud of the robust pipeline we have developed and the innovations that are coming to the LATAM market as a result.
Tropfen: We currently offer comprehensive solutions to the Argentine market, under 3 business lines: adjuvants, biostimulants and biological.
In fact, the last launches were bioproducts and several of the developments also go in that direction.
UPL: UPL has the best and more complete solutions for soybean growers, and is recognized by major research institutes. We offer Triple Mix, which is based on our main active ingredient, Mancozeb. Farmers can also rotate and alternate our solutions.
The commercial names for our solutions are Evolutions and Tridiun, which are all triple mixes with innovative formulations:
EVOLUTION is a combination of three fungicides, which are Mancozeb that has a contact effect with multisite action and belongs to Group M03; Azoxystrobin, which interferes with mitochondrial respiration and belongs to Group C3; and Protioconazole (triazolinthion), which has a systemic effect and acts as an ergosterol biosynthesis inhibitor that is a constituent of the fungal cell membrane and belongs to Group G1, according to the FRAC international classification.
TRIDIUM is also a combination of three fungicides, but instead of Prothioconazole, we added Tebuconazole.
These two products offer the best combinations and are excellent options for managing Asian soybean rust resistance and others diseases present in Brazil.
I would like to stress that UPL is the unique company that combines crop chemicals and biosolutions within just one company, and this fact reinforces our commitment to achieving better and sustainable control.
In the future, we will bring new crop protection solutions by introducing new actives and also new solutions, such as biostimulants and other biologicals, to better combine our solutions.
What drives the Brazilian biopesticides market to grow so rapidly? Can other countries learn from Brazil in terms of rapid bio market growth?
UPL: I think that some reasons that drive this market are:
- We do not have a winter season to help us control these pests. Here we have two or three crops per year, and the combination of agrochemicals and biologicals, as well as other technical such as crop rotation, low till farming, cover crops, and crop-livestock integration, assist this growth.
- The federal government incentives the use and release of new products through the regulatory.
- The expertise in tropical agriculture with the knowhow of EMBRAPA through the incentive of Rhizobium to inoculate soybeans helped to look for others microorganisms. I believe that Brazil has the large bank of microorganism in the world.
- We are the biggest exporter in the world and our farmers understand that our consumers are concerned about this theme. As a market oriented we are doing our homework.
The biologicals will increase and I think Brazil can export the expertise. We are doing this in some countries in South America and Africa, but with much more opportunities to share with other countries. Our farmers are very open minded, and I am sure that will be a pleasure for them share this know how.
AgBiTech: With 55% of farmers currently using biologicals in their crops, Brazil is the leading country when it comes to biocontrol adoption. The main driver is necessity. Due to its tropical climate, successive crops and continental size, Brazil is the ideal environment for insecticide resistance. In other words, a huge all-you-can-eat buffet, all year long, with no snow to break the pest cycle, so it is basically paradise for insects.
The development of biological products has gained momentum in Brazil in the last decade and it is benefiting farmers, consumers and the environment. The combination of these tools and the chemicals, biotechnologies and other practices within Integrated Pest Management is the key to maintaining the viability of global agriculture. Brazil has understood that and has done a tremendous job implementing this concept in sizable areas and intensive cropping, and it should be a reference for other countries of this issue. 
Kynetec: The drivers are as follows:
- Efficacy against nematodes
- Some crop protection companies replacing their agrochemical offerings with biological options
- ESG protocols favoring biologicals, with a ″greener″ label
- Leaf hopper pressure on corn
- Integrated applications with agrochemicals as part of a fungicide management program
Brazilian farmers are entrepreneurial. They embrace new technologies and are very open to try them.
Companies learned that you need to be close to farmers, explain new product concepts, and support farmers on how and when to use them.
A new technology, a new mindset and an integrated solution are what farmers are willing to experiment with, therefore, do not compare with chemicals – find your own space.
Do not compete directly with chemicals but rather complement them, it is great for resistance management.
Have a clearly defined and strong value proposition that is not only based on cost reduction, but also on effectiveness with environmental benefits.