AgBiTech achieved U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approval for a new biological insect control to help U.S. row-crop farmers “redefine caterpillar management” in major crops.
Heligen is the new biological-based solution from the Australian-based AgBiTech Pty Ltd. for control of Helicoverpa, a genus of moths. Heligen is the first product released by the company in the U.S., and it closely follows the recent opening of the company’s research laboratory at the University of Missouri Life Science Business Incubator in Columbia, Mo.
AgBiTech CEO Anthony Hawes says there is a large potential market in the U.S. for solutions that selectively targeted agricultural pests to help make farming more profitable and sustainable.
He suggested that the key to AgBiTech’s success outside the U.S. and now in the U.S. is in making biological-based products like Heligen accessible to farmers, at the right price.
The company anticipates a strong demand for Heligen, particularly among farmers growing soybeans, sweet corn, sorghum, tomatoes and other crops.
Heligen incorporates a natural baculovirus-based technology, Helicoverpa NPV, which kills only Helicoverpa and Heliothis pests such as corn earworm and tobacco budworm. Depending on the situation, growers can use the product early in the season to suppress the pest, later as a stand-alone application or in combination with other pest control methods to minimize the risk of further sprays.
AgBiTech released similar products in Australia in 2002 and in Brazil in 2013. The company contends that while the product is new to the U.S. and is recognized as a leader in Helicoverpa NPV, which plays a vital role in Helicoverpa management in Australia and the insect problem that is rapidly expanding into South America.
It is important that AgBiTech is in a position to respond rapidly to grower demand. This could be an issue if for example the devastating pest Helicoverpa armigera finds its way into the southern U.S. This pest had a multi-billion dollar impact on production in Brazil when it appeared a couple of seasons ago, but AgBiTech’s product is emerging as a vital tool in helping growers manage the insect, the company claims.
In addition to releasing Heligen, AgBiTech also expects to begin the U.S. EPA registration process in 2014 for a second product targeting fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda).
Through its U.S. subsidiary (AgBiTech LLC) the company is funding a cooperative research and development project with the United States Agriculture Department (USDA) to develop the new product.
Based on its proprietary baculovirus-manufacturing platform, this product is one of several new solutions under development by AgBiTech, whose pipeline includes viruses against soybean looper (Pseudoplusia incudens) and diamond-back moth (Plutella xylostella).