(Photo: the use of drones could change the current paradigm on pest control. Courtesy Embrapa)
By Leonardo Gottems, correspondent in Brazil
Sao Paulo, April 29th. Despite being widely used by commercial-scale agriculture, the present system of plant defense through the application of pesticides with self-propelled sprays is far from having consensus on its effectiveness and its advantages. The conventional method of insect management is the most used in the world’s largest agricultural producers, such as Brazil, Argentina, Mexico and the United States, as well as in the main countries of Europe, Africa and Asia.
On the one hand this technique can cover vast areas and apply a large amount of agrochemicals. “The current idea is that the larger the equipment, the more area it can spray. And there is a whole big industry around these machines, which is involved from the facilitation of the concept to manufacturing, going to financing and maintenance, which promotes this understanding and makes the producer dependent on the latest releases, “explains Leandro Mafra, CEO and marketing manager of ISCA Tecnologias.
He points out that traditional spraying of pesticides spends an immense amount of water, not to mention the large cost of inputs themselves – which show above-average inflation each year regardless of global economic fluctuations. The major problem with this method is the need for the application to “wet” all the plants with the mixture prepared for the defensive to take effect, he points out.
In the midst of all this, a quiet revolution has been gaining momentum with the emergence of various pest control alternatives that reverse all the logic of today’s plant defense. Just to name a few well-known examples, it is increasingly common to apply the technique of attracting insects by using baits, pheromones and traps. The logic is that instead of having to spray the entire planting with the defensive, with this new platform of “semiochemicals, the products are applied in low volumes creating points that attract and kill the pest insects, promoting a pest control solution low impact and no waste.
An example of one of the greatest innovative strengths in the industry is ISCA Technologies, which promotes these disruptive alternatives and focuses its efforts to make agriculture more sustainable – both in the environmental sense and in the economic sense of business viability. “We are proposing another model, that of applying pest control solutions using traits in a strategic way that controls the insect in the crop,” Mafra reveals, “with our semi-chemical solutions, you can get complete control of the pest without having to cover each centimeter of crop with defensive.
He cites as an example the use of formulations that emit insect sex pheromones for a long time. The odor of these formulations breaks the sequence of the pest mating, the females become unmarsted, and lay infertile eggs in the field. Another method is the sexual attraction of insects to specific points where they will come in contact with a fulminant dose of insecticide. Another line is phage-stimulant products, such as the Acttra and Noctovi series, which can be applied with the addition of insecticide by the farmer himself, which induces the pest to “eat” the formulation with the poison, applied in less than 2% of the crop.
ISCA Technologies, however, has gone a step further to announce a strong investment in new application technologies, notably aerial applications with drones and airplanes, with which it is possible to envisage a “new agriculture”. “Our goal is to have less equipment on the ground and more in the air. Thus, it is already possible to control pests by spending less, more efficiently and saving a large volume of water, “says Mafra.
The aerial drones, he explains, are suitable for areas smaller than 1,000 hectares. It achieves an average coverage of eleven hectares per flight, depending on the battery charge of the drone and the formulation being sprayed, always with low flights and extremely precise application. According to the executive director and marketing manager of ISCA, it is only necessary to pass a line of attractive products for each hectare: “An airplane flight, covering 100 hectares with pesticide syrup and water, now with our formulations, can cover more than 1,000 hectares, making these aerial sprays much more viable, and cheaper than traditional applications, and this is proven by numbers and studies. The experimenter realizes that it is a much more advantageous and efficient form of application. “
According to him, this type of control is already a reality in many points of the state of Mato Grosso and Argentina. “The keywords are precision and speed. This changes the current paradigm of application-and even storage of products. Today with conventional pesticides it is necessary to have a storage shed. With our products, the producer needs only one room, because the amount of inputs to be applied is much smaller. Rather than spend on buying a tractor and a sprayer, he will have to purchase a drone that costs a fraction of the price. There is no comparison term. Logistics are much easier and the application is much faster, “he explains.
Already the planes can be used in greater areas, being able to calmly make in a flight 4,000 hectares of fast way. “ISCA has created a new product platform that lures insects to their solutions. It is no longer necessary to wet all the plants with the spray, the insects move towards the products, where they contaminate with the defensive. Large volume of aqueous solution / syrup is no longer required. Where previously 200 or 300 liters of syrup were needed, less than one liter is now required. We envision a new future in practice, “concludes Mafra.