Biopesticides include all types of agents and products derived from biotic sources,
with potential for the control of phytophagous insects, plant diseases and pests of public health importance. These products have been used for pest and disease control for many centuries, but it has been only in recent years that greater attention has been directed toward the discovery and development of natural products, phytochemicals, microbial control agents, antagonistic agents, genetically modified organisms, hormones, pheromones, kairomones and other agents of biological origin. In recent years we have seen a flurry of research activity in the area of genetic engineering of crop plants, human pests and vectors of diseases as well as that of currently available biological control agents. Thus, we are seeing a significant increase in fundamental and applied research activity on the development and potential use of biopesticides in pest management programs. This research has been carried out by research groups in universities, national governments, research centers and institutes, international agencies and industrial firms. Support for this research has been usually provided by ministries of agriculture, ministries of science, technology and the environment, ministries of public health and farm based organizations as well as industrial combines and international agencies.
Currently, considerable amount of research is carried out in south and southeast Asia with emphasis on screening and development of plant products, phytochemicals and natural products. South and southeast Asia is blessed with great diversity of plants and biodiversity of microbes and it is here that the field of homeopathic medicine relying on herbal products is relatively advanced in contrast to other regions. With a great wealth of knowledge on herbal medicine, it is prudent to look for bioactive materials derived from plants that may have medicinal properties. In this regard, SE Asia and the Asia Pacific Region is in the forefront of this technology. In addition to identifying and evaluating plant products for pest control, a number of biotic agents such as bacteria amenable to fermentation technology have been developed and promoted for pest control. The area of antagonistic bacteria and fungal toxins is also explored for pest control properties and potential. Molecular and genetic techniques for modification and alteration of plants and pest targets have been found useful in some cases.
Despite the recent flurry of research activity on biopesticides, there is still a great need for national, regional and international coordinated effort to develop and utilize biopesticides in broad-range of pest control systems. Research on biopesticides especially phytochemicals, antagonists and fermentation products of many bacterial and fungal agents is inadequate. In general, there is lack of communication and interaction among researchers in this field. It is hoped that gatherings of regional, like the one here, national and international experts, will fill the gaps in our knowledge and promote coordinated and focused research strategies. The past International Conferences on Biopesticides (held in Phistanulok Thailand 1996, Wuhan China 1998 and Kuala Lumpur Malaysia 2002) have served well the profession, researchers and funding agencies, as well as the agricultural and public health interests around the globe.
In order to promote and speed up the use of biopesticides especially plant products it is necessary to develop focused coordinated research and education programs to address the following areas of phytochemical pesticides:
1. Cost effective and standardized extraction methods
2. Develop and use standard bioassay methods, giving information on toxicity, antifeedancy, growth inhibition, attractancy, repellency and sterility induced in the target species.
3. Develop appropriate formulation technology that can be used by small industrial firms and farmers. Enhance activity by using efficacious formulations.
4. Increase stability and shelf life by formulation and proper packaging.
5. Assess the toxicity, safety and environmental fitness and friendliness of the products. Develop proper packaging and labeling.
6. Streamline registration and labeling procedures.
7. Educate and familiarize consumers and farmers with proper use of biopesticides.
It is hoped that these steps will greatly enhance the potential use of biopesticides in pest control, programs and lead to the development of new pests control technologies of the future.
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