A BUTTERFLY pea biopesticide developed by Wee Waa-based business Innovate Ag will be released for commercial use in September following the recent approval of its active constituent.
Sero-X has passed the biggest hurdle in its approval stage, with the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority approving butterfly pea extract in December.
Innovate Ag project director Nick Watts said the approval of the active constituent took time as APVMA hadn’t assessed a similar product in the past.
“An active constituent is normally a single compound chemical, so we had to create a new standard for a new active constituent, which is Clitoria ternatea (butterfly pea) extract, and develop the whole data package required to register it.”
Butterfly pea is a legume used for thousands of years as a medicinal herb in India which many pests have a natural aversion to.
While a participant in the Cotton CRC, Narrabri-based NSW-DPI principal research scientist Robert Mensah observed the plant’s natural protection from pests during a study of potential refuge crops for the cotton industry.
“He noticed that not many insects would go near this plant, so it was about the worst option possible for a refuge crop,” Mr Watts said.
“When Robert made that observation he started to look at extracts with it.
“In most cases, for other plants that show similar defences mechanisms, an extract just wouldn’t do much because you couldn’t take the compound out and have them maintain their structure.
“A lot of plants are good at protecting themselves against pests, but usually when you take the compounds out of the plant they lose their function, but we found that we could take out the peptides in butterfly pea and apply them to a crop and they’ll continue to function the way they did in the plant.”
Innovate Ag, a joint venture between Wee Waa manufacturing business Growth Agriculture and private investors, was able to further develop the product through a research project with the University of Queensland.
The result is an organic style of pesticide where the active constituent is a plant material put through an extraction process.
Sero-X is manufactured at a Goondiwindi facility from crops grown at Wee Waa, Emerald and Julia Creek.
“Our pilot manufacturing process can be turned into a 10,000L a week production very quickly because we don’t have to order anything from overseas. It’s all done here.”
Mr Watts said the product would be fully registered for cotton in September 2016.
“Sero-X will have to stand up against synthetics because there’s no market benefit cotton growers, but there’s certainly a resistance management, environmental and social benefit.”
Sero-X could have a huge impact on the nut and horticulture industries as there are huge market benefits to growing organic produce.
Mr Watts said there had already been good support from producers who want a reliable biopesticide.
“Because the registration and trial process is long and expensive we’ve had to focus on cotton, but organic markets are screaming out for these products,” he said.
”In vegetables and macadamias, people who are trying to grow organic crops might lose as much as half their crop to insects,” he said.
“Sero-X works very well against fruit-spotting bug, so the macadamia farmer who currently loses 50 per cent of nuts from fruit-spotting bug and another 20pc of nuts because they’re marked, could double his production.”