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Semiochemicals are organic compounds found in insects to communicate and transmit messages about food sources, threats, and sense directions. It defines the behavior and physiology of the insects and is among the major components for their survival. These organic compounds are extracted with the help of expensive equipment and used for agricultural purposes. It is an excellent component for a fertilizer that is completely natural and healthy for the soil.
The adoption of this fertilizer eliminates the health complications caused by the consumption of vegetables cultivated through chemical farming. The chemicals’ demand in agricultural applications is increasing rapidly because of its ability to eliminate pests from hurting the crops. Hence, these chemicals can be considered as a healthy and safe option to get rid of pests.
The global market size for semiochemicals was valued at USD 3.30 billion in 2020. The market is expected to grow significantly at a CAGR of 14.7% from 2021 to 2028 owing to the increasing demand for biopesticides.
Semiochemicals can be divided into pheromones and allelochemicals; where pheromones act within the species and allelochemicals act between the species. The pheromones can be used to make a non-toxic version of pest control with Integrated Pest Management (IPM). IPM is an integrated tool that is known for the adoption of organic fertilizers, exceptional pest resistance, and creating awareness regarding the benefits of soft pest control One of the examples of the integration of Semiochemicals and IPM is BioAmp AA, launched by Suterra in June 2021. It is a synthetic recreation of Argentine Ant trail pheromones that is infused with a sprayable adjuvant. The insecticide increases the activity of the ants in the areas where it is sprayed, further resulting in the elimination of insects.
The disruption in the supply chain is the major negative factor that is affecting the chemical's supply chain. The halt on transport activities and problems in marketing is directly responsible for the disruptions caused to pesticide production. For example, as per the Organization for Economic Co-operation & Development (OECD), the nationwide lockdowns have significantly declined the production activities of organic fertilizers. However, despite the disruptions, the increasing awareness about organic foods is fueling the demand.
Fortune Business Insights™ states some of the drivers supporting the market's growth
Semiochemicals have no health repercussions or environmentally harmful materials as it is an organic product obtained from insects. Canada's Pest Management, Regulatory Agency (PMRA), European Union's regulatory policy, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have supported the claims that these chemicals have no harmful effects on humans nor do they damage the environment. Therefore, there are no government regulations imposed on the production of these chemicals. However, regulations can be imposed if the number of traps per hectare crosses the specified limit. The U.K., the Netherlands, Belgium, and Denmark have announced government policies to back the companies producing Biopesticide.
There are some significant differences between chemical and organic pesticides. To understand this difference it is necessary to segregate the advantages and disadvantages of the fertilizers and point out the glaring differences between the two.
Chemical Fertilizers- These traditional fertilizers have been used for a long in several agricultural applications. They are extremely cost-efficient and kill pesticides effectively. However, there have been several cases of crop damage despite the extensive use of this product. Extensive exposure to chemical fertilizers has made the insects and other pests immune to the fertilizer. This is a major restraint for the crop growers as they face extensive loss of crops. Apart from this, there are several health hazards related to the chemicals used in these fertilizers.
Semiochemical fertilizer/Biopesticide- These fertilizers are created as an alternative to chemical fertilizers. This is an organic fertilizer that possesses the ability to kill pests efficiently by attacking their psychological strength. It also eliminates any chance of immunity.
The increasing awareness of this bio-fertilizer has led to significant investments by several companies. For example, Provivi Inc. invested approximately USD 85 million to improve the development of pheromone products.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has specified that the consumption of fruits and vegetables is extremely essential as it prevents the risks associated with heart diseases, cancer, obesity, micronutrition deficiencies, and diabetes. Approximately 3.9 million fatalities were recorded worldwide because of the deficiencies related to the lower consumption of fruits in 2017. As a result, the awareness regarding the consumption of healthy fruits and vegetables has risen among the consumers.
Consumers prefer a healthy diet and safer foods in recent times as they are becoming increasingly aware of the benefits of organic foods. Vegetables and fruits are a necessary part of the consumer's diet, which, in turn, has surged the adoption of semiochemical-based fertilizer. As per the information provided by FAO, the total production of fruits and vegetables worldwide touched 2,014 million tonnes in 2019, which was a significant jump compared to 1,918 in 2016. This is an indication that consumer preference is about to boost the semiochemical business.
IPM and semiochemicals provide excellent protection against several pests as they disable the pest's ability to become immune to these fertilizers. As a result, the rising awareness about its benefits is attracting robust demand from crop growers in several emerging economies. The consumers and farmers understand the benefits and demand for produce cultivated by using biopesticides.
Therefore, it is safe to assume that the increasing adoption of semiochemicals in agricultural applications can spur new opportunities globally.
Written by Anirudh Rao