First efficacy result delivers insecticide-driven boost for Bio-Gene

Bio-Gene Technology ASX BGT Flavocide insecticide trial brown planthopper
Bio-Gene's Flavocide technology proven to be effective against rice pest, the brown planthopper.

Agriculture technology developer Bio-Gene Technology (ASX: BGT) has published a positive field trial for its Flavocide insecticide, when tested against the brown planthopper, a significant pest to rice farmers globally.

Bio-Gene’s CEO Richard Jagger spoke to Small Caps earlier this month regarding the company’s current business model and future market intentions. One of its major goals is to prove the efficacy of both its synthetic and natural insecticides, with today’s field trial results substantiating Bio-Gene’s market strategy.

The Flavocide field trial was performed by Eurofins, an international contract research organisation. It was undertaken in Thailand where rice crops are prone to high levels of planthopper infestations and have developed historically-high levels of insecticide resistance.

The field trial showed that Flavocide is effective against young and mature planthoppers, and importantly, was found to be “superior to the existing chemistry used” given that control samples were treated with existing products already being used across the farming industry.

Bio-Gene also reports its product “exhibited repellence effects that would potentially assist in preventing re-infestation and virus transmission” and said that it had “no observable impact on beneficial species such as predatory mirids and spiders).

According to Bio-Gene, the field trial provides partial indication that its Flavocide product can be integrated into existing pest management programs which often involve multiple products as standard.

“These are positive and encouraging results that demonstrate the potential of Flavocide for control of a major rice pest, particularly in Asia, and provides justification for further evaluation to fine-tune dose rates and further demonstrate efficacy in a range of field conditions,” said Richard Jagger, CEO of Bio-Gene.

“The results also highlight that, like other insecticides, Flavocide may have differing effects against different pests which justifies our strategy of evaluating Flavocide as widely as possible across pest species both alone and in combination with other insecticides,” Mr Jagger said.

Hopping for insecticides

Planthoppers penetrate the tissues of their rice host plants and ingest the plant’s nutrients, but obstructing the plant’s inner vessels which causes yellowing of leaves, wilting, drying and eventual plant death.

An increasing population density of planthoppers eventually leads to the so-called “hopperburn” effect whereby clusters of brown dead plants give the impression that a particular area has been burned.

Furthermore, planthoppers cause major damage to Asian rice crops resulting in yield losses of up to 60% or more, sometimes completely destroying the crop.

In addition to direct plant damage, this pest is also an important vector of viral diseases of rice. Its presence also promotes the growth of sooty mould which negatively impacts plant growth and further reduces grain yields.

According to market research conducted by Kynetec Research in 2016, an estimated A$3.7 billion is spent on rice insecticides globally, with a large proportion specifically aimed towards control of Planthopper populations.

The global agribusiness industry is a colossus with a huge influence on several sectors and industries.

According to research conducted by McKinsey & Company, a US-based market research company, agribusiness has become a US$5 trillion industry accounting for 10% of global consumer spending, 40% of all employment, and 30% of all greenhouse-gas emissions.

“Rice is the staple food of half of the world’s population and more than 90% of the global rice crop is grown in Asia. The Planthopper is a major pest that has been increasingly difficult to control, largely due to its resistance to most insecticides available for use .The unique mode of action of Flavocide offers the opportunity to control these resistant strains, where other chemistry is failing. This, along with having no impact on beneficial species, is a real positive towards inclusion in integrated pest management programs, which is of great value to the industry,” said Mr Jagger.

Filip has written in both Australia and abroad during his career, covering everything from the global economy, politics and geopolitical issues to commodities and small cap stocks on the ASX.