British Society for Plant Pathology
25th Anniversary Celebratory Meeting

Imperial College, London 19th December 2006

Agrochemical control: Screening, costs, efficacy and environment

Naomi Pain, Syngenta, Jealotts Hill Research Centre

The last 25 years have seen significant changes in the structure of the agrochemical industry, and the pressures it faces. In agriculture, the need for novel fungicides has persisted. More sophisticated, potent chemistries with novel modes of action and effects have been introduced to the market place. Different properties have required growers to understand the products to use them to best effect, and agribusinesses, advisors and grower groups have provided education and recommendations for improved disease control. However, increasing regulatory requirements and hence development costs of novel products have necessitated an increase in efficiency and cost-effectiveness within the industry.

One result of this has been extensive consolidation. Within research and development, further changes have been made to improve cost savings. Novel technologies (miniaturisation, automated liquid handling, combinatorial chemistry, data analysis systems etc) have enabled the implementation of in vivo (living target based) and in vitro (biochemical target-based) high throughput assays. Success of these approaches is closely scrutinised, and the failure for the industry to deliver on expectations has seen a re-focussing of priorities. We are now seeing the focus shifting towards balance between through put and data quality to meet the business needs of delivery of "blockbuster" products.

Looking forward, in a relatively static agricultural market, the fungicide sector is showing growth. This can be attributed to a number of factors: the emergence of new diseases, increased significance of others, occurrence of resistance to existing products, increasing consumer and processor demand for high quality, consistent food. These areas will be explored further, and a view of the future of crop protection alongside other disease control approaches (biotech, native traits etc.) will be presented.