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Natural Pesticides Maker Marrone Bio Gets EPA Nod on Biofumigant

Xconomy San Francisco — 

A biological fumigant developed by Marrone Bio Innovations is one step closer to joining the pest-control toolkit of strawberry farmers after clearing a key regulatory hurdle.

Marrone Bio (NASDAQ: MBII) announced Monday that the Environmental Protection Agency has registered the Davis, CA-based company’s biofumigant, called MBI-601 EP. The biofumigant was developed to control and suppress plant parasitic nematodes and plant insects, as well as some plant diseases such as Fusarium root rot; damping off, a horticultural disease; southern blight; and Verticillium wilt.

Marrone Bio researches and markets biological pesticides developed to be safe for humans and the environment. The active ingredient in Marrone Bio’s new biofumigant is a strain of Muscodor albus, a plant fungus that produces volatile compounds that showed in tests the ability to kill or suppress the growth of pests and plant diseases. Muscodor albus and many of its strains were first discovered by Gary Strobel, professor emeritus of plant pathology at Montana State University.

In field trials testing the new biofumigant, Marrone Bio says its application led to higher yields in strawberries, lettuce, and other crops. Strawberries will be the company’s first target crop. Marrone Bio says that California strawberry growers have a critical need for additional products that control pests and soil disease. The company developed its biofumigant to offer an alternative to fumigants that have been restricted or even removed from the market because of their affect on the environment, farm workers, and the public.

Citing figures from research firm MarketsandMarkets, Marrone Bio pegs the global fumigant market at $1.4 billion; the U.S. fumigant market is an estimated $625 million. Beyond strawberries, Marrone Bio says future uses of the new biofumigant could include applications in turf, forestry seedlings, post-harvest applications, and seed treatment.

In addition to EPA registration, Marrone Bio says the agency has also determined that the new biofumigant complies with the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Organic Program. The company also says that the Organic Materials Research Institute has listed the Marrone Bio biofumigant for use in organic farming.

“We believe MBI-601 can enable growers to avoid the losses they endure because of unfortunately necessary restrictions on chemical fumigants,” Marrone Bio CEO Pam Marrone said in a prepared statement.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user GTnici under a Creative Commons license.