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SPECIAL SESSION: Bottling breakthroughs: How industry creates plant health products from scientific innovation

The Future of Disease Control
Gina Swart - Syngenta Crop Protection AG.

Attempts to control plant diseases have been recorded since organized agriculture began. In the 1930s synthetic fungicide development and their use began to expand rapidly. Rachel Carson’s ‘Silent Spring’ in 1962 raised awareness of chemical pesticides and emphasized the need to improve user and environmental safety of crop protection products. R&D investment by the major research-based companies has remained high at approximately 7-10% of annual sales over the last 50 years. This has led to continued improvement in performance and the amount of active ingredient used today is approximately 95% lower than rates used in the 1950s. Many products were withdrawn over the years and the EU’s re-registration process (Directive 91/414), has resulted in the removal of more than half of the commercially significant crop protection products. Today, there is a drive for plant protection products with very specific properties, balanced by a favourable regulatory profile. This has led to advances in innovation in amongst others chemical discovery. In addition, modern approaches to biological control, including the use of biologicals, plant extracts and peptides, are becoming more important for a holistic, integrated approach to disease control. These, coupled with new technologies such as digital agriculture and precision application could revolutionise agriculture in the same way as The Green Revolution in the 1950s -1960s which increased agricultural production worldwide.