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Are Biologicals the Wild West of Crop Protection?




As we tread through the era of agricultural innovation, a new player has emerged in the field of crop protection: biologicals. These biological agents, designed to protect crops from pests and diseases, promise a greener alternative to traditional chemicals. However, as more grower direct companies enter this space, it becomes increasingly akin to the "Wild West," characterized by rapid growth and minimal regulation.

Innovation and Change in the Ag Input Supply Chain

The agricultural input supply chain is witnessing a seismic shift with the introduction of biologicals. Many growers and industry enthusiasts are excited about the prospects of using these nature-inspired solutions. The entry of numerous companies directly targeting growers is a testament to the market's potential and the eagerness for innovation. However, this surge is not without its concerns.

The Challenge of "High Level" Data

While the enthusiasm for biologicals is palpable, the foundation upon which they are being sold raises eyebrows. The majority of these products are not regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), leading to a reliance on "high level" data. This data often comprises on-farm data, anecdotal testimonials, and visually appealing but scientifically vague pictures of roots on a salesman's truck tailgate. The lack of rigorous, peer-reviewed data makes it challenging for growers to make informed decisions and for the industry to establish credibility.

Adoption and the Future

South American markets have been notably quicker to adopt biologicals as a standard practice. The United States has been a slower grind. This adoption highlights a trend that might eventually pick up globally. However, it also serves as a reminder that with all new technologies, there are leaders and laggards. The biological sector is ripe for innovation, and it's likely that the most effective and reliable companies will quickly be acquired by larger, more established agricultural firms. These "big guys" are keenly aware of the potential profitability and are unlikely to let high margins slip away.

Conclusion

The world of biologicals in crop protection is indeed reminiscent of the Wild West - full of promise, but also uncertainty and minimal regulation. For biologicals to move from a niche to a mainstream solution, there needs to be a concerted effort towards standardization, regulation, and transparent, accessible data. As the sector matures, it's expected that consolidation will occur, with the most successful ventures being absorbed by larger entities. Until then, growers and stakeholders should tread cautiously, armed with as much information as possible to navigate this new frontier.

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