February 7, 2024

Insecticide granted emergency use in Greece to target tomato leafminer

Vestaron Corp. has been granted emergency authorization to provide farmers in Greece with an insecticide targeting infestations of tomato leafminer, marking a commercial milestone that could lead to the product’s first sales in Europe.

The Greek Ministry of Agriculture has granted emergency use in Greece for SPEAR LEP, a peptide-based insecticide that targets lepidopteran insects such as tomato leafminer (Tuta absoluta) with minimal risk to beneficials, pollinators or people, according to a news release. The pest that has been known to cause yield losses in Europe of up to $380,000 per hectare, according to the release.

In experimental studies in Greece and other European countries, SPEAR LEP demonstrated efficacy against the target pest under both open-field and protected conditions, including in populations that may be resistant to other commonly used insecticides.

“The Tuta absoluta crisis in Greece and other European countries underscores the need for effective, sustainable pest control products as the use of neonicotinoids and other synthetic pesticides becomes increasingly restricted,” Juan Estupinan, Vestaron interim CEO and president, said in the release. “Peptide-based bioinsecticides such as SPEAR LEP represent a powerful new category of products to effectively control pests while fighting resistance. Vestaron’s solutions are imperative for growers and offer advantages for workers and in-field specialists, beneficials, the environment and consumers.”

SPEAR LEP, available for growers in Greece to use on tomato plants from March 1 to June 28, is a biological product that is ingested by larvae as they graze on leaves. The pesticide, manufactured Durham, North Carolina-based Vestaron, is based on naturally occurring peptides found in spider venom and produced using natural fermentation. Its mode of action (IRAC group 32) has no known resistance or cross-resistance with other synthetic pesticides, according to the release.

When used in conjunction with a low dose of the widely used insecticide Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), which disrupts the larvae’s gut, the active substance in the product enters the pest’s bloodstream and attacks its central nervous system, destroying the larvae within as little as two days, according to the release.

Agricultural product distributor Oxygen AgroShield LP petitioned the Greek Ministry of Agriculture for emergency authorization on behalf of 19 other Greek grower groups, according to the release

“If growers are going to meet the EU’s sustainable use regulations for pesticides, which aim to reduce pesticide use by 50% by 2030, then having effective biocontrols like SPEAR LEP available to producers is vital,” said Nikos Pentaris, senior agronomist at ASOP Elafonisiou SYN, one of the grower groups represented in the petition. “With a unique mode of action, SPEAR LEP provides Greek tomato growers with a sustainable solution to use in rotation with other categories of pesticides, helping to protect crop quality and yields while preserving the efficacy of the limited range of products available to combat this prevalent pest.”

Greek growers will be able to make three applications of SPEAR LEP every 5-15 days at a dose of 1-2 liters per hectare.

SPEAR LEP has been in use in the U.S. and Canada since 2020 and was submitted for full regulatory approval in Europe in 2022.

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