New crop protection chemical tames voracious flower pests

Kenya flowers are headed for good times with the introduction of a new crop protection chemical that controls plant eating pests within hours and continues to protect the flowers for a further one to two weeks.

Dubbed Delegate™ 250WG, the new chemical by Dow AgroSciences contains the active ingredient, spinetoram, which won the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award for Designing Greener Chemicals.

Dow AgroSciences is one of the world’s largest producers of crop protection products and has outperformed the industry in recent years with its success in developing new, sustainable crop protection solutions. The launch of Delegate 250WG in Kenya, as the first of an array of products now set to be launched in the market, begins a drive to roll out the new chemistry in Africa.

“Delegate 250WG is made from a molecule derived from soil bacteria that breaks down naturally, but kills thrips and caterpillars that eat and damage flowers,” said Johan Janse van Rensburg, the marketing specialist at Dow AgroSciences for fungicides and insecticides in southeast Africa. “The launch of this product to the Kenyan flower industry marks an expansion of our engagement in East Africa, which we see as having huge agricultural potential, in line with the region’s development aims.”

The flower industry, which is expected to bring the Kenyan economy $531 million in earnings this year, employs about 90,000 people directly. An estimated 500,000 Kenyans depend on the sector indirectly and it supports the livelihoods of over two million households, according to industry data.

However, flower farmers have been grappling with voracious pests that have seen them lose millions in unmarketable, damaged flowers.  One flower company in Thika, for example, had its entire flower consignment destroyed on three occasions last year after thrips were discovered in some of the flowers. The company has lost Sh 50 million ($590,000) to the rejected consignments.

Barnabas Muoka, a flower farmer who also sources for flowers from smallholder farmers for export, has had to grapple with traces of thrips in some of the flowers he buys. When the pests were first discovered in his flowers, he lost three major clients in the UK. 

Kenya is regarded as a leading flower exporter in the world, especially to the European market, but recent market scares arising from high toxin content in horticultural products has seen the market shift to Ethiopia, Recently, Ethiopia received a quality flower award from the EU that has seen it snatch Russia, Holland and UK markets that were previously served by Kenyan growers. It currently exports 22 types of quality flowers.

Delegate 250WG, which is designed to be sprayed in the evenings when bees and other pollinators are not foraging, controls plant eating pests within hours and continues to protect the flowers for a further one to two weeks. Within six hours of spraying, once the spray deposit has dried,, it is safe for bees, butterflies, and all mammals as long as it is  used according to label recommendation. It leaves no persistent residues in the soil and does not accumulate.

“The point of the new chemistry is in applying the sophistication of modern science to creating molecules that act exactly as we need them” said Joseph Anampiu, Sales Manager for Dow AgroSciences East Africa. In this respect, the Delegate 250WG launch marks the opening of a new strategy for Dow AgroSciences in Africa, with Kenya identified as a key market. ‘We are now registering our next new molecule in Kenya simultaneously with South Africa, and will be doing that automatically from now on, as we step up our efforts to fast track the country’s farmers to better agricultural solutions and farm management”.

Delegate 250WG has been in use in farms in the US and developed markets for the last five years, but would previously not have been launched into Africa, due to the size and sophistication of the market. “However, we see the issues that flower farms and the horticultural industry are now facing in a Sh 93bn ($1.1bn) industry for Kenya. The country’s agricultural producers really need solutions as they grapple with meeting quality standards that are key to sales and incomes,” said Mr Anampiu.

Dow Agro Sciences has more than doubled its research and development spending since 2007, increasing its laboratory space by 62 per cent, greenhouse space by 77 per cent, field station acreage by 90 per cent, and opening 15 new global field stations in the past 3 years.

“We are acutely conscious that the globe faces the challenge of feeding  9 billion people by 2050 on the same amount of land and water, and Kenya has been identified by many authorities, including the Food and Agricultural Organization, for its outstanding agricultural potential, held back principally by issues of farm management and technology.”

“Our role in meeting this imperative task is to develop solutions that balance human needs with the preservation of land and air quality, minimizing environmental impact, while contributing to communities’ success,” he said.
 “Moving to the point where we can now apply all this work in delivering crop protection solutions and better incomes into Kenya is genuinely exciting for all of us here at Dow AgroSciences,” said Mr Janse van Rensburg.