With the boom in consumption of organic foods creating a pressing need for natural insecticides and herbicides that can be used on crops certified as “organic,” biopesticide pioneer Pam G. Marrone, Ph.D., is reporting development of a new “green” pesticide obtained from an extract of the giant knotweed in a report scheduled for presentation here today at the 236th national meeting of the American Chemical Society.
That 12-foot-high Goliath, named for the jointed swollen nodes on its stem, invaded the U.S. from Japan years ago and grows along the East Coast and other areas. “The product is safe to humans, animals, and the environment,” says Marrone, founder and CEO of Marrone Organic Innovations Inc., in Davis, Calif.
The new biopesticide has active compounds that alert plant defenses to combat a range of diseases, including powdery mildew, gray mold and bacterial blight that affect fruits, vegetables, and ornamentals. The product will be available this October for conventional growers, according to Marja Koivunen, Ph.D., director of research and development for Marrone Organic Innovations. A new formulation has also been developed for organic farmers and will be available in 2009.
In one of the presentations by Marrone Organic Innovations (MOI), the progress toward discovery of an “organic Roundup” — the Holy Grail of biopesticide research — an environmentally friendly and natural version of the world’s most widely used herbicide was discussed.
Biopesticides are derived from plants, microbes, or other natural materials and are proven to be safer for humans and the environment. The active ingredient in one of the company’s first products, GreenMatch EX, came from lemongrass oil, and microorganisms from around the world are studied in the search for novel and effective natural pesticides. Currently, the MOI R&D team is working on an organic rice herbicide based on an extract from a marine microorganism, as well as on insecticides and nematocides to kill insect pests and soil-inhabiting, parasitic roundworms that affect plants and animals.