Biocontrol solutions use naturally occurring compounds and leave zero residue

Tougher regulations on phytosanitary products and growing consumer demand for greener products are putting an increasingly onerous burden on producers. Oregon-based Suterra, a company that has been supplying biological pest control for more than 40 years, says this has sparked a growing interest in its mating disruption solutions.

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As part of The Wonderful Company, its products cover pests that commonly occur within the company’s product portfolio – including pistachio and almond pests like navel orangeworm, citrus pests such as California red scale and various fruit flies, and wine grape pests European grapevine moth Lobesia botrana and vine mealybug – as well as other crops including apples, pears, stonefruit, berries, and vegetables.

“Our products are appealing to growers and exporters because they leave zero residue. Most of our products are also exempt from Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs) because they use naturally occurring compounds such as pheromones,” says business development manager Natalia Gamarra-Cockle. “These ingredients have a non-toxic mode of action, leave no harmful residues on food, and do not leach into soil or groundwater the way some conventional pesticides do.”

Furthermore, since many Suterra products are installed once per season in specialised aerosol emitters, the reduction in the spray equipment operations saves on fuel and CO2 emissions.

While mating disruption has existed for many decades for relatively simple pheromone molecules like those emitted by moth pests, Suterra was the first company to introduce a mating disruption solution for more complex pests like scales and mealybugs. It also pioneered sustainable, effective biocontrol solutions for California red scale and vine mealybug, products that are amongst its most demanded even today.

The company also supplies the most widely used brand of aerosol mating disruption in the world: the Puffer. This patented technology, first registered over 25 years ago, delivers pest control in a way that helps minimise the use of plastic, eliminate residue, and cut carbon emissions.

The latest additions to Suterra’s global portfolio are BioMagnet Oro, BioMagnet Amber, and BioMagnet Ruby, three products built on its revolutionary BioMagnet platform. As Gamarra-Cockle explains, “our latest evolution of insecticide is an innovative ‘attract and kill’ system designed with a unique formulation and a special application method that guarantees pest control throughout the field without spraying”.

She describes BioMagnet as “one of the most innovative and sustainable methods to protect crops against fly damage” as it’s placed in the field and effective for several months. The powerful attractant brings the fly to the device, contacting the insecticide coating upon landing. The fly ingests the insecticide through its natural grooming behaviour. “The effect is not immediate – some flies fall in the same place and others fly a few yards before dying. With no need to spray and far less insecticide, our new product line increases safety for workers and consumers alike,” she says.

In the four decades since the company was founded, Gamarra-cockle says biological pest control has become more widely used, adopted, and understood in both conventional and organic production, particularly in Central Europe, Australia, and Africa.

“In fact, our company’s own growth – and the many imitators that have come to market in the last decade – are proof that mating disruption is a growing practice within IPM,” she notes. “Suterra’s products fit perfectly into IPM practices. Since they are species-specific, they don’t harm beneficial insects like pollinators and predators.”