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AgBiTech secures US EPA approval for biological insect control

March 2014

Australian-based AgBiTech Pty Ltd aims to redefine caterpillar management in the North American row crop market with Heligen, a biological-based solution for the major crop insect pest, Helicoverpa.

The United States Environment Protection Agency (US EPA) approved the product’s registration on 5 March 2014.

Heligen is the first product released by AgBiTech in the USA, and closely follows the recent opening of the company’s research laboratory at the University of Missouri Life Science Business Incubator in Columbia, Missouri.

AgBiTech CEO Anthony Hawes said there was a large potential market in the USA for solutions that selectively targeted agricultural pests to help make farming more profitable and sustainable.

“The key to AgBiTech’s success is making biological-based products like Heligen accessible to farmers, at the right price,” said Mr Hawes.

“Based on our market research, we believe this approach will also work well in the North American market and we anticipate a strong demand for Heligen, particularly among farmers growing row crops such as soybeans and sorghum,” he said.

Heligen incorporates a natural baculovirus-based technology, Helicoverpa NPV, which kills only Helicoverpa and Heliothis pests such as corn earworm and tobacco budworm. Depending on the situation, growers can use the product early in the season to suppress the pest, later as a stand-alone application or in combination with other pest control methods to minimise the risk of further sprays.

The product is registered in the USA for use in a wide range of crops, including sweet corn, soybean, sorghum, and tomato. AgBiTech released similar products in Australia in 2002 and in Brazil in 2013.

While new to the USA, AgBiTech is a recognised world leader in Helicoverpa NPV, which plays a vital role in Helicoverpa management in Australia and is rapidly expanding into South America.

“AgBiTech is an experienced and established Australian agricultural company with a commitment to ongoing product development to provide farmers with cost effective tools. We have state-of-the-art production facilities designed to deliver reliable, quality products at high volumes to a global market.

“That’s important because it’s a priority for AgBiTech to be in a position to respond rapidly to grower demand. This could be an issue if for example the devastating pest Helicoverpa armigera finds its way into southern USA. This pest had a multi-billion dollar impact on production in Brazil when it appeared a couple of seasons ago, but AgBiTech’s product is emerging as a vital tool in helping growers manage the insect.”

In addition to releasing Heligen, AgBiTech also expects to begin the US EPA registration process in 2014 for a second product targeting fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda), a serious pest of many grain and legume crops. Through its US subsidiary (AgBiTech LLC) the company is funding a cooperative research and development project with the United States Agriculture Department (USDA) to develop the new product. 

Based on its proprietary baculovirus-manufacturing platform, this product is one of several new solutions under development by AgBiTech, whose pipeline includes viruses against soybean looper (Pseudoplusia incudens) and diamond-back moth (Plutella xylostella).