Agrochemical giant Bayer is offering the promise of mainstream bio-pesticides for British arable farmers, with a microbial product for the control of sclerotinia in oilseed rape expected to be available within two to three years.

Many pesticide makers are turning their focus to biological products because of  tighter regulations and resistance concerns about conventional agrochemicals, and the worldwide bio-pesticides market is growing 10% annually and predicted to triple in size to $4bn by 2020.

Bayer snapped up US bio-pesticide company AgraQuest last year, giving the group its first bio-pesticide – Serenade – in the UK, which is used on potatoes and strawberries. It sees the future as combining these bio-pesticides with mainstream agrochemicals to give the best results for growers.

“With the delisting of many products in Europe, we see a market ripe for integrated crop protection using biologicals and chemicals together,” Marcus Meadows-Smith, global head of Biologics at Bayer CropScience, told Farmers Weekly.

He says Bayer is working together with agrochemical rival DuPont on the sclerotinia product within what he describes as a rich pipeline of new microbial products.

“UK growers can expect this product in the coming years – it could be ready in as soon as two to three years’ time,” he adds.

This month Bayer took full control of Serenade, which is used for the control of rhizoctonia in potatoes and botrytis in strawberries. The company will trial its use in other crops. When it is used on strawberries in the US the resultant crop can be classed as organic, says Mr Meadows-Smith.

The German group is also awaiting EU clearance for products used in the US, such as Sonata for the control of mildew in soya and corn and Requiem for controlling white fly, thrips and mites in fruit and vegetables. It also has seed treatments in the pipeline as well as the sclerotinia product.

Tighter controls on the use of agrochemicals in Europe has led to some products being delisted, while France is aiming to halve its use of pesticides by 2018, which is encouraging investment in the bio-pesticide industry .

After buying AgraQuest for nearly $500m last year, Bayer agreed to purchase smaller German group Prophyta earlier this month, and has highlighted its focus on bio-pesticides by saying that half of its CropScience research and develop spending will be on bio-pesticides and seeds by 2016, with the other half on agrochemicals.

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