Superintendent had a conversation with Keith Jones, executive director of the Biological Products Industry Alliance.
What is BPIA, and how has it worked to introduce and advocate biological products to growers and other end-users?
The Biological Products Industry Alliance started about 15 years ago with five member companies that wanted an organization to advocate on behalf of biopesticides. BPIA has grown to almost 120 member companies that range from sole proprietors to some of the largest agrochemical companies in the world. Members include distributors, food processors, growers, manufacturers of biopesticides and biostimulants, marketers and service providers. We promote biological products to a variety of audiences, including growers and other end-users such as golf course superintendents. Much of BPIA’s advocacy on Capitol Hill and agencies like the EPA and USDA works to ensure that there is reasonable, science-based regulation of biological products.
What has the effect of biological pesticides been on farming thus far? How can they make an impact for turfgrass managers?
Biological products are now routinely included as inputs in farming to significantly improve quality and yield of crops under challenging conditions. Biopesticides may be used to protect crops from pathogens, insect pests and weeds. In organic production systems, biopesticides represent some of the most significant crop protection tools for growers. In addition, biostimulants enable growers to improve crops by naturally evoking physiological benefits such as increased fruit size or enhanced color.
A healthy, fertile soil system is the key to protecting professional turfgrass. Many superintendents and turf managers rely on both conventional and biological inputs to keep their fields healthy. While beneficial microbes, including mycorrhizae and Bacillus, have been used in soil-health programs for years, there are many new biological products specifically developed for turf and golf course management.
The most commonly used biocontrol strategies in turf care involve the use of beneficial microbes in conjunction with chemical fungicides. When brown patch, dollar spot and other diseases arise, turf managers can apply microbial biofungicides as a natural way to extend or augment the efficacy of conventional methods. This method of application is a more sustainable practice while also helping fight chemical resistance in the disease target.
Talk a bit about your recent decision to include biostimulants in BPIA. Why are they important to your membership and to agronomy?
BPIA’s recent decision to include biostimulants as a part of its mission was very organic. Our Regulatory Committee’s Plant Growth Regulator Subcommittee was getting involved with more issues related to biostimulants. At the same time, our Membership Committee discovered that over a dozen of our members were either manufacturers of biostimulants or involved with them in some capacity. Additionally, we were approached by several member companies and potential member companies who wanted BPIA to promote biostimulants in the same way we have promoted biopesticides. It was a logical decision for our board to embrace this sector so that BPIA can be the voice of the biological products industry.
What are BPIA’s aspirations in the turf market? Why is this an important niche for the association?
BPIA’s primary aspiration is to be the voice of the entire biological products industry. To achieve this, BPIA’s work must cover every aspect of biological products including what we call specialty markets such as the turf market. The turf market is a growing and important market for the biological products industry. Many new biological products are being developed specifically for the turf market. More golf course superintendents have sustainability goals and are looking to engage in IPM. Biological products are a critical component of any IPM program. We hope that any company in the turf market that has an interest in biological products will become an active member of BPIA.
What products or services from your member companies have immediate or potential applicability to golf?
Some typical biological options in turf and sports field management include the following: Microbes – examples include Trichoderma harzianum, Bacillus firmus, and Metarhizium anisopliae. Registered microbes have broad spectrums that include common insect, nematode and disease pests for turf management. Biostimulants – examples include mycorrhizae, Bacillus and micronutrients. Many natural biostimulant products help promote healthy root growth, thatch reduction and a healthier soil ecosystem for lusher, greener fields. Beneficial nematodes – examples include Heterorhabditis bacteriophora and Steinernema riobrave. These live and natural predators can kill select insects or greatly reduce pest populations in turfgrass.