Good agricultural practices form part of the armoury against pests and diseases which reduce yield losses by promoting healthy crop growth and improved tolerance of stress including attack from pest and diseases. For example, optimising the soil microbiome has been shown to increase the nitrogen fixing capability of microbes found in the root system of some crop species. There are also other natural approaches currently available that can successfully control diseases and pests. For example, endophytic Trichoderma martiale strain ALF 247 is used to control black-pod rot in cocoa, although in many cases further development is required to provide economically viable methods for biocontrol at scale.
Another example of a natural approach that has been successfully brought to market is the production of peanuts with a reduced level of aflatoxin through the application of a competitive strain of A. flavus. This strain is not capable of making the aflatoxin and out-competes the toxin-producing strains naturally present, thereby lowering levels to 3% of what it would otherwise be in shelled, edible-grade peanuts. In many cases, it is thought that this natural pesticide has sufficient efficacy but with the added advantage of much lower levels of detrimental side effects compared to the standard synthetic chemicals.
Chemical fertilisers, particularly nitrogen, are a major source of greenhouse gas emissions both in the production phase and on-farm. To sustainably increase yield, there is a need to improve efficiencies of nutrient use, reduce losses and ideally identify low carbon nutrient sources.
The company is seeking sustainable methods that can reduce the amount of agrochemicals being used, and/or its environmental impact.
Possible approaches: Soil microbiome technology, other environmentally benign alternatives, solutions that reduce greenhouse emissions, etc.