In the EU project BIOCOMES – coordinated by Wageningen University & Research (WUR) – a large, international consortium of thirteen commercial companies and fourteen research institutes worked together on the development of new biological control products. The availability of these products is becoming more and more important in order to control pests and diseases in plant crops in a sustainable and environmental friendly way. After four years this ambitious EU project has proved to be an excellent example of how a public-private cooperation can make the difference. Although the development of new biological control products generally takes quite a long time, the BIOCOMES partners have successfully developed several new products with commercial potential.
BIOCOMES coordinator Jürgen Köhl of WUR therefor concludes that the results after four years of BIOCOMES are very good. “Eleven biological control agents are now in development, with two already on the way to registration. In addition, several new insects will be marketed as biological control agents. It is important to point out that these are all products which may have a major positive impact on the environment when replacing chemical crop protection. And without this public-private partnership these products would not have reached the market!”
New biological control products
At the end of the project two new products are now ready to be submitted for registration. One virus product to combat the tomato leaf miner Tuta absoluta and a fungus product to control fusarium in cereals. “Commercial exploitation of these products is almost certain,” Köhl says enthusiastically.
According to Köhl, there are several different success factors within the BIOCOMES partnership. Shared expertise is one of them. Köhl: “One of the partners wished to breed nematodes to better combat pests, but lacked the molecular expertise. This expertise was, however, available elsewhere within the consortium. The development of these nematodes is now so advanced that the German government is taking over the support of BIOCOMES. Here, too, commercial production is almost certain.”
In addition to this qualitative input, BIOCOMES has also offered pure quantitative capacity, Köhl stresses. “Most of the companies in our consortium were medium-sized or even small. One of the partners wished to develop a fungus to combat fusarium in grain. They lacked the capacity for the necessary research and setting up of field tests. BIOCOMES played a decisive role here as well – without the partnership the company could not have gone through with this.”