With estimated sales of almost $1 billion at the grower level in 2011, the global nematicides market is expected to continue its steady increase, reaching $1.2 billion by 2016 with significant pockets of growth in the Asia-Pacific region and South America, according to the recently released “Global Nematicide Market: Market Analysis and Opportunities” report by consulting and research firm Kline & Company.

The United States, Brazil, and Japan are the largest nematicide markets among countries surveyed for the report, accounting for nearly 70 percent of total nematicide sales. Vegetables constitute the largest crop group market with $432 million or 44 percent of total 2011 sales, followed by field crops and specialty crops.

According to Dennis Fugate, industry manager of Kline's specialty pesticides consulting practice, “The ever greater pressure to increase yields from the same unit of land is universal in all countries so the control of nematodes is becoming imperative.” Nematodes are often described as the “unseen enemy” in crop production, responsible for an estimated $100 billion in global crop losses. While over 4,100 plant parasitic nematodes have been identified and some crops are attacked by multiple species, about 40 of these are documented as causing sufficient damage to merit a targeted nematicide treatment. Once nematode populations get established, they are near impossible to eradicate; they can only be managed by crop rotation, introducing genetic crop resistance, and the use of chemicals and biologicals.

Fumigants have been the traditional means of controlling nematodes. As the dominant means in the United States, France, Japan, Italy and Spain, they account for 45 percent of total nematicide sales globally. However, the high cost of fumigants has restricted their use to high value crops in countries where these usually toxic products can be applied safely and effectively. Many countries have either severely restricted the use of fumigants or completely banned them. The consequence is that farmers in most countries have a very limited choice of products to control nematodes effectively by fumigation.

Chemical nematicides were the largest product type used globally in 2011, accounting for approximately 55 percent of total sales and being the leading nematicide product form in Brazil, the United Kingdom, Mexico, South Africa, China and Argentina.

In many countries, seed treatment is found to be highly effective and efficient in field crops such as cotton, corn and soybeans, protecting developing seedlings and consequently achieving higher crop yields. Additionally, major crop protection companies are actively pursuing the use of biological seed treatments to supplement root and growth-enhancing benefits with nematode control, according to the market analysis study.

Fugate noted, “The challenge for entrants with a new nematicide product is to offer economic and effective nematode control in a program that also controls soil pathogens, soil insects and early foliar insects. Such products are available for seed treatment; so, an easy fit for a nematicide-only product should be feasible.”

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