August 21, 2008
Powdery mildew on cucumber (left)
disappears when treated with Marrone Organic's new pesticide,
Source: American Chemical
Powdery mildew on cucumber (left) disappears when
treated with Marrone Organic's new pesticide, MOI-106.
Credit: Marrone Organics International, Inc.
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
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.
Although sales of synthetic pesticides dominate the $30 billion
pesticide market, the use of biopesticides is increasing.
Officials from MOI estimate that global sales will hit $1
billion by 2010 and grow 10 percent a year on average.
Biopesticides could make up 4.25 percent of the global pesticide
business in 2010, up from 2.5 percent in 2005. As they become
more popular, synthetic pesticides are expected to shrink by 1.5
percent each year over the same period.
What accounts for the changing numbers? Public awareness,
Koivunen said. "I think the time is right, there's more demand,"
she said. "People are becoming more aware of the negative
effects of conventional pesticides. At the same time, growers
are more willing to switch. They have more choices and incentive
compared to 10 years ago."
All organic farmers must have markets for their food — markets
that might not have been available to them a decade ago,
Koivunen said. Why are people switching to organic food? "I
think there has been enough scientific evidence that there's a
difference between, let's say, conventional tomatoes and organic
tomatoes in terms of pesticide residues but also improved taste
and higher levels of antioxidants," she said.
Koivunen adds that the growing popularity of biopesticides and
organic foods is not a fluke. In fact, it is part of a much
"I think it's a combination of the movement of green chemistry,
trying to protect the environment and people's thoughts about
their own health — maybe not even their health but their kids;
and grandkids' health."
The American Chemical Society — the world's largest
scientific society — is a nonprofit organization chartered by
the U.S. Congress and a global leader in providing access to
chemistry-related research through its multiple databases,
peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main
offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.