How ‘Softer Chemistry’ in Crop Protection Addresses Increased Emphasis on Safety

With the recent implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act, a spotlight is now being shone on the need for better safety procedures for commercial farming. That’s true not only for the handling of grown food, but also the type of water quality, soil amendments, and other applications being administered during produce cultivation.

Click image to enlarge.

It’s important to note that this regulation does not directly address chemicals used during farming. Nonetheless, the scrutiny being applied to how fruit and vegetable crops are grown and stored safely suggests that agribusiness professionals should take a closer look at alternatives to traditional products for crop protection and pest mitigation. (That’s not to say that traditional chemicals are unsafe, only that alternatives exist that might be useful in combination with these chemicals, or in place of them, depending on farmers’ needs.)

Across the industry, these alternatives are becoming known as “soft chemistry.”

Soft Chemistry and Biopreferred Applications

The soft chemistry movement is seeing some validation in the government, as the USDA is certifying some of these additives as “biopreferred.” Farmers can work to produce more safely grown fruits and vegetables by introducing more such products into their strategy for crop protection and pest control.

For the uninitiated, the USDA’s “BioPreferred Program,” created by the 2002 Farm Bill and expanded with additional legislation in 2014, looks at ways to increase the use of bio-based renewable materials derived from plants and other renewable agricultural, marine, and forestry materials.

Crop management solutions that are deemed “biopreferred” by the USDA offer a more natural (although not necessarily “organic”) alternative to suppress pests and improve crop yield. These substances provide safer and more sustainable alternatives to other pest control substances.

For example, USDA biopreferred crop protection and pest mitigation products may use pelargonic acid as their active ingredient. Pelargonic acid is a naturally-occurring substance that degrades into water and CO2. It’s safe for livestock and humans and can be synthesized from chemicals or made from plants or animal fat.

By increasing their focus on soft chemistry, farmers will begin to see less harmful effects to the environment and living creatures, improved crop yields – and possibly even greater effectiveness of other applications they already use in their crop protection strategy.

Lower-Impact Conventional Chemistry

Even in more conventional chemistry, there is an industry push to find ways to lower the chemical footprint for crop protection products. Industry experts are continually looking for chemicals with fewer residues, or ones that can be used in tank mixing, to reduce the concentration of chemicals that in the past would have found their way into soil.

That pursuit of lower-impact chemistry extends to chemicals such as dinoterfuran, which, while being a neonicotinoid, has fewer residuals and therefore a comparatively lower chemical footprint, or the post-emergence herbicide pyridate, which in certain applications leaves no residues. And the rest of the industry, in turn, is recognizing the efforts of manufacturers who pursue this approach to lower-impact chemistry. The Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) puts its OMRI Listed® Seal on pest control products, which assures the suitability of the listed products for certified organic production, handling, and processing. To be compliant with this listing for certified organic farmers, these products must be included in the operator’s approved organic farm plan, and must follow any restrictions described in the OMRI Products List© under the product’s category.

Nature and Sustainability

It’s no secret that success in farming, both as a business and in crop production, boils down to improving yield. If you can improve yield and mitigate pests while ensuring safer conditions for workers, livestock, and beneficial insects, you create a sustainable plan for successful farming, today and tomorrow.

Nature often gets in the way of farmers’ success, however. Across the country, farmers’ environmental and climate-related challenges make application of softer chemistry solutions an important way to continue to grow as a business.

Depending on where in the U.S. you live, you know about the particular obstacles Mother Nature can throw in your path. In the Pacific Northwest, for example, apple and cherry crops in particular have to be protected from damage such as sunburn.

Seasonal changes can also wreak havoc on pulse crops – chickpeas, lentils, dry peas, dry beans, and more – which account for 2.5 million acres of farmland in predominantly dry areas such as the Great Plains and western U.S. The 20 million acres of corn grown domestically are also susceptible to both climate and pest problems, which can dramatically affect the price paid by the American consumer and in foreign export channels.

On the other side of the spectrum from sun damage is freezing weather. According to a recent report by the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, blueberry crops in the state were significant damaged by the winter freezes. That damage threatens to create fungal pathogens that can affect fruit production and yield in the state. (Similar problems are occurring elsewhere on the East Coast, including North Carolina and Michigan, as well as in Midwest states such as Michigan.)

Softer chemistry and biopreferred alternatives to traditional applications may not be the silver bullet that commercial farmers need to address the threats posed by annual changes in climate. But they are clearly where regulators are beginning to focus their attention, and even conventional chemical crop protection products are being developed with an eye toward limiting their environmental impact.

Compliance with new and existing regulations for better safety in food growth and handling demands that farmers develop creative, innovative and sustainable strategies for crop protection and pest control. Such strategies, adopting softer chemistry or biopreferred substances, can improve yield and reduce the chemical footprint in commercial farming, while still curbing the environmental threats to harvests every year.

Alan Haack, Ph.D. is the Technical Service Manager – West for Belchim Crop Protection USA, LLC. He can be reached at [email protected] or by phone at +1 916 755 1145.

Leave a Reply

One comment on “How ‘Softer Chemistry’ in Crop Protection Addresses Increased Emphasis on Safety



Terramera Gets EPA Approval for Biocontrol Product

Terramera announced the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approved registration of its novel, broad-spectrum agricultural insect, fungal disease, and mite control


FMC Launches Insecticide/Fungicide

FMC Corp. has launched Ethos 3D insecticide/fungicide, formulated specifically for the novel 3RIVE 3D in-furrow application system that converts traditional


Marrone in Distribution Deal with Input Supplier in Turkey

Marrone Bio Innovations, Inc., a leading global provider of bio-based pest management and plant health products, announced that it has


How the Biopesticide and SMART-TECH Industries Create a “Blue Ocean” of Uncontested Crop Protection Market Space (Part 4)

Editor’s note: This is the fourth of seven articles in a series on Strategic R&D Management in AgChem and BioScience


Bayer Biological Product Registered in France

Bayer said its Serenade ASO fungicide/bactericide has received registration in France for foliar and soil applications on a wide range


Bayer Seeking Biologicals Partnerships

Bayer says it is seeking partners as it looks to increase its presence in the biologicals market. The company is

Pam Marrone

Marrone Enters Distribution Partnership in Vietnam, Cambodia

Key factors driving the rapid adoption of biologicals in Vietnam include pesticide residue problems in agro-products for local consumption, new requirements for Maximum Residue Levels on agro-products imported to the EU and U.S., and a growing number of banned pesticides.


STK REGEV Biofungicide Now Registered in Argentina

STK bio-ag technologies, the innovative Israeli-based leader in bio-ag technologies for sustainable crop protection and aquaculture, has announced its ‘hybrid’


BioConsortia Promotes Dr. Hong Zhu to Sr. VP of Research and Development

BioConsortia, Inc., innovator of microbial solutions for natural plant trait enhancement and yield improvement, has promoted Dr. Hong Zhu to


Marrone Bio Innovations Submits Novel Bioherbicide for EPA Approval

Marrone Bio Innovations, Inc. (MBI), a leading provider of bio-based pest management and plant health products for the agriculture, turf


PepsiCo in Deal with Arysta LifeScience Chile on Biological Products

Under the agreement, the select group of Chilean potato farmers that supplies PepsiCo on an exclusive basis will use the solutions from the Arysta LifeScience Pronutiva program, which combines traditional crop protection inputs with biological solutions.


Biorational Processes in Biopesticide Discovery and Development

Agchem companies are expanding their biopesticide R&D and portfolios, driven by stricter pesticide regulatory requirements, consumer awareness regarding hazards caused


3 Questions with BioTecnologie BT’s Piffanelli on EU Regulatory Environment

BioTecnologie BT is a Perugia, Italy-based contract research organization (CRO) specialized in the regulatory testing of biopesticides and biostimulants.


Corbion CEO Tjerk de Ruiter Appointed as New EuropaBio Chairman

EuropaBio’s Executive Board and General Assembly of Members confirmed the appointment of Tjerk de Ruiter as Chairman of the association.


FaunaSmart, BioScience Solutions Form Innovative Collaboration in Crop Protection

FaunaSmart and BioScience Solutions have announced a cooperation within strategic business development and innovation strategies in crop protection. Harry Teicher,


FMC, Chr. Hansen Extend Collaboration on Natural Crop Protection

FMC Corp. and Chr. Hansen have announced a five-year extension of their collaboration to develop and commercialize natural solutions for the agricultural industry.


Tradecorp Acquires Spain’s Idai Nature

Idai Nature is currently present in 35 countries and has posted annual growth of more than 30% in recent years. The company’s consolidated revenues amount to 16 million euros.


A (Surprisingly Long) Biopesticide Timeline

The application of biopesticides in plant protection is certainly not a new innovation. A few examples are presented in the


Marrone Bio Innovations Names Hammill as Chief Commercial Officer

Most recently, Hammill was Chief Operating Officer at Pivot Bio, a startup company.

Latest News


Terramera Gets EPA Approval for Biocontrol Product

Terramera announced the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approved registration of its novel, broad-spectrum agricultural insect, fungal disease, and mite control

Industry News

Cibus Files Registration Statement for Proposed Initial Public Offering

Cibus Ltd., a leader in advanced plant-breeding technologies, has publicly filed a registration statement on Form S-1 with the U.S.


What to Expect for U.S. Dicamba Use in 2019

Long-awaited news from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on its decision to extend the registration for the new dicamba technologies arrived Halloween


Report: Farming in 20% of Indian Districts Threatened by Climate Change

Crops, plantations, even livestock in 151 districts, or slightly more than one-fifth of the total districts in India, are susceptible


Bayer: Study Shows its Soybeans Reduce Environmental Impact

Results from a five-year peer-reviewed study on Intacta RR2 PRO™ soybeans planted in South America were recently published, indicating that