In the last couple of years the global economic crisis and climate change have focused minds across the world.
Among many things identified in groping for solutions is the need to produce food in a more sustainable and less environmentally-damaging way.
Worries about food scarcity and food security are already key concerns in parts of the developing world and quite rightly thoughts are turning to how to improve them.
Part of the answer is for farmers to increase produce yield. But if in dash for growth the land they depend on is leached of all goodness that's only going to be a short term solution
So crucial to increasing yield for longer term food security is to develop sustainable farming methods.
Across the planet from the US to Nepal there's increasing recognition of the urgency of the issue:
This is an extract from a report by the Nepal Agricultural Research Council, which ws established in 1991 to carry out agricultural research to "uplift the economic level of the people",:
"Pesticide use in Nepal is heavily concentrated in areas that have greater access to market, such as Terai and the Kathmandu valley.
"There are as many indicators that pesticide use has been increasing in the past several years. This trend is likely to continue in future.
"The pesticides that tend to persist in the environment can cause serious impact on environment and ecology.
"Pesticide use is supposed to increase the agriculture production. but, especially if they are not used properly and judiciously, negative impacts do occur. This has brought the chance to seriously endanger life and pollute the environment."
....and another from the Dec 2009 newsletter of the Asia-Pacific Association of Agricultural Research Institutions ....
"The region is facing stagnation or slow down of productivity growth rates, soaring food prices, increasing energy costs, diversion of area for biofuel production, consequences of the climate change and economic shocks.
"The problems of the numerous and geographically dispersed small farm holders and other resource poor communities, who form the bulk of agricultural population, persist: low yields, low returns from farming, and inadequate access to resources and markets.
"Land and water are prominent among the natural resources becoming scarcer and degraded. Addressing these complex challenges, with opportunities to harness many innovations, now require out of box solutions (technology, institutions, policies, and higher investment)."
How Biopesticides can help towards Sustainable Agriculture.
Sustainable farming involves a range of methods for both protecting the land's fertility and increasing crop yields.
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is one part of the process combining a range of complementary pest control methods including chemical, biological, cultural anmd physical controla, host plant resistance and decision support tools.
Biopesticides can make important contributions to IPM and help reduce reliance on chemical pesticides in the view of the UK's Royal Agricultural Society (working with Warwick University) for several years.
As part of a range of low-chem, biological agricultural products from pesticides and disease control through to growth enhancement their use contributes to less waste, higher yield, land quality sustainability.
They help reduce reliance on chemicals and often have a narrow spectrum of pest activity, which means they have a relatively low direct impact on non targets, including humans. Their use is often compatible with other control agents, and they produce little or no residue.
This is what the CEO of one of the largest private sector groups researching biopesticides in the world, says: "There are huge food security demands around the world."
He adds: "Most of our products are certified organic and around five per cent of our business is supporting the organic sector. About 95 per cent of our business involves conventional farming. To meet the need for safe, affordable food we are designing programmes."
Copyright (c) 2010 Alison Withers
Experienced, qualified journalist Ali Withers, who specialises in a variety of consumer issues including organic food , its production and use of low-chem biopesticides, biofungicides and yield enhancers considers the role of biopesticides in sustainable farming. A useful web resource she has found is the US-based low-chem agricultural products R & D company AgraQuest http://www.agraquest.com/