Biopesticides in the European Green Deal

Biopesticides are an important part of the European Green Deal. The Green Deal is a European Union policy initiative that aims to make the EU climate-neutral by 2050 and promote a sustainable economy.
As part of the Green Deal, various measures are being taken to reduce the environmental impact of agriculture and promote sustainable practices. Biopesticides play a crucial role here, as these pesticides are based on natural or biological active ingredients and are often considered more environmentally friendly alternatives compared to conventional pesticides.

The shift to sustainable farming practices, including the use of biopesticides, is part of a broader effort to make EU agriculture more resource-efficient and environmentally friendly.

Biopesticides in agriculture – sustainable and environmentally friendly

Biopesticides are pesticides based on biological or natural active ingredients. In contrast to conventional pesticides, which often contain synthetically produced chemicals, biopesticides rely on biological substances such as microorganisms, plant extracts or mineral compounds. These are used to control pests, control diseases, or regulate weeds.

There are different types of biopesticides:

1. Biological pesticides:

These are living organisms such as certain bacteria, fungi, viruses or predatory insects that are used specifically against pests. A well-known example is Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) preparations, which are derived from certain bacterial strains and are effective against insect larvae.

2. Plant extracts:

Some plants produce natural defenses against pests. These substances can be extracted and used in biopesticides. Neem oil, or azadirachtin, is an example of this and is often used as an insecticide.

3. Mineral pesticides:

These include substances such as sulfur or copper that are based on mineral compounds. These are often used to combat fungal diseases.

Biopesticides leave hardly any residue

There are several advantages to the use of biopesticides. They are often more environmentally friendly because they degrade faster and leave less residue. They also tend to be more selective, which means they have less impact on non-targeted organisms. Biopesticides are also an important part of integrated pest management, which combines different methods to control pests without putting too much strain on the environment.

However, it is important to note that biopesticides can also have certain challenges and limitations. Efficacy may vary depending on environmental conditions, and in some cases, higher amounts or more frequent applications may be required compared to synthetic pesticides.

Overall, biopesticides play an increasingly important role in sustainable agriculture and environmental protection, as they offer alternative solutions for pest control. Intensive work is being done worldwide on the research and development of biopesticides.

Rising Demand Boosts Research

The increasing demand for environmentally friendly and sustainable alternatives to conventional pesticides has led to an increased interest in the development of new biopesticides. Research institutions, universities, companies, and government organizations are investing significant resources in identifying new biological agents that can be used for pest control. The focus is on various approaches:

1. Biotechnological methods:

The application of biotechnological processes, including genetic engineering, enables the targeted improvement of microorganisms or plants for the production of effective biopesticides.

2. Discovery of new active ingredients:

Researchers are actively looking for new substances in nature, whether in plants, microorganisms or other organisms that can serve as the basis for effective biopesticides.

3. Improving formulations:

The development of efficient and stabilized formulations for biopesticides is also the subject of research to improve their applicability and shelf life.

4. Improving efficacy:

Researchers are working to increase the effectiveness of biopesticides to ensure effective pest control and get closer to conventional pesticides in this regard.

Research in the field of biopesticides is dynamic and contributes to creating more sustainable solutions for agriculture and environmental protection. However, it is also important to carefully monitor biopesticides to ensure that they are applied in accordance with environmentally friendly practices and do not have undesirable effects on non-targeted organisms.

Bacillus thuringiensis – a soil bacterium against pests

A concrete example of a biopesticide is Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). Bacillus thuringiensis is a soil bacterium that produces proteins that are toxic to certain insect larvae. These proteins are referred to as “Bt toxins”. Biopesticides based on Bacillus thuringiensis are used in agriculture to control pests such as certain species of caterpillars.

The Bt toxins work by binding to the intestinal wall of the insect larvae and perforating it, which leads to their killing. What makes Bacillus thuringiensis particularly attractive is its specificity to certain insect species, while many conventional pesticides are often not as selective and can also affect beneficial insects. The application of Bacillus thuringiensis has been shown to be an effective method of controlling pests in agriculture and is widely used in organic farming systems.

Neem oil – a biopesticide made from plant extracts

An example of a biopesticide made from plant extracts is neem oil. Neem oil is extracted from the seeds of the neem tree (Azadirachta indica), which is widely grown in parts of Asia. This vegetable oil has a wide range of uses, including its use as a biopesticide in agriculture. Neem oil contains various compounds, including azadirachtin, which acts as the main active ingredient.

Azadirachtin acts on various pests, including insect larvae, by interfering with their feeding behavior, inhibiting development, or interfering with the reproductive cycle. It has a wide range of harmful effects on insects, while it is less toxic to mammals and many beneficial insects.

There are several benefits to using neem oil as a biopesticide:

It is biodegradable and leaves less residue in the environment compared to synthetic pesticides.
In addition, neem oil is often used in organic farming systems as it is a sustainable and natural alternative for pest control.

Pyrethrum extract offers particularly fast degradation time

Another example of a biopesticide made from plant extracts is pyrethrum extract, which is extracted from the flowers of the chrysanthemum species Tanacetum cinerariifolium. Pyrethrins contained in this extract are natural insecticides that are effective against a wide variety of insects. Pyrethrins affect the nervous system of insects by destabilizing their sodium channels, leading to rapid paralysis and eventual death. This mechanism of action makes pyrethrins effective against flies, moths, mosquitoes and other flying insects. A significant advantage of pyrethrum extract is its rapid degradation time and low toxicity to mammals.

These sustainable biopesticides offer an alternative to synthetic chemicals and are part of efforts to promote environmentally friendly methods in pest control.

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