Biopesticides

Discovery and Application: Biopesticides and Biofertilizers to Improve Plant Health

OARDC researchers are facilitating the expansion and adoption of biofungicides and microbial inoculants through the discovery of novel active ingredients, formulation development, product testing, and the creation of educational materials for conventional and organic growers.

Situation

For the past fifty years, chemical pesticides and fertilizers have played a central role in food production. However, valid concerns about the environmental costs and health risks have led to intensive review and regulatory bans on some classes of pesticides by the US EPA.

Concurrently, consumer interest in certified organic produce and sustainable agricultural practices have built market demand for biopesticides and microbial inoculants. When surveyed, both conventional and organic growers rank plant diseases and their management as a priority for research and extension professionals, which has led to intensive research and development in biopesticides and biofertilizers. Global sales of such products now exceed $500 million annually, and the market continues to grow.

There is a substantial need for new active ingredients, as well as unbiased, scientifically-based evaluations of their efficacy, to help our growers profitably integrate biologically-based inputs into farm management.

Response

OARDC researchers are involved in the discovery and development of new microbial inoculants and biopesticides. Dr. McSpadden Gardener’s laboratory focuses on discovery research that aims to increase the number and diversity of active ingredients for commercial product lines of biopesticides and fertilizers.  With DNA-based profiling and marker-assisted selection, he has identified and novel microorganisms with significant capacities to promote plant health.

Drs. Hoitink, Mitchell and Taylor are characterizing and developing new microbial agents for applications in agriculture and the bioenergy sectors.  Drs. Ellis, Miller and Paul are engaged in multiple projects to assess the efficacy of biopesticides in greenhouse and field trials for industry sponsors.

Recently, McSpadden Gardener founded a multidisciplinary Microbial Bioproducts Scale-up and Applications (MBSA) Team in the Center for Applied Plant Sciences (CAPS) that provides expertise for multiple product development efforts. > CAPS website

Impact

OARDC scientists are meeting the needs of growers and industry with the development and testing of biopesticides. Fundamental research has led to the identification of new and useful agents of plant disease control and plant health promotion. Specifically, newly developed research approaches have led to the discovery of several new species of microorganisms that can be developed as biopesticides and/or biofertilizers. In cooperation with Technology Licensing and Contracts and the Fisher College of Business, several OSU patents covering have been filed and two have been licensed to companies looking to develop new biopesticides and biofertilizers. Additional research has involved regular field-testing of commercial formulations on a variety of crops, yielding publicly available data on efficacy to growers and confidential assessments of pre-commercial products to industry partners. Additionally, new Extension and outreach activities have significantly enhanced stakeholder application of such products to sustainable and organic agriculture. Such efforts have brought global recognition to The Ohio State University, making it a world-class leader in the discovery and development of biopesticides and biofertilizers.

Michael J. Boehm, Michael A. Ellis, HAJ Hoitink, Brian McSpadden Gardener, Thomas K. Mitchell, Sally A. Miller, Pierce A. Paul, Christopher G. Taylor