Costa Rica is recognized worldwide for being a green and environmental country, however, one of its main spots in ecological issues is the amount of use of agrochemicals in agriculture.
Not by chance, several studies place Costa Rica as number one in the use of pesticides worldwide, which has caused cases of contamination of water sources, such as that of Cipreses de Oreamuno, in Cartago, with chlorothalonil.
For this reason, Costa Rican researchers work from laboratories in the search to develop biopesticides, and through private or state projects to formulate alternatives for agriculture.
CIB of TEC
Proof of this is the Biological Control Laboratory of the Biotechnology Research Center (CIB) of the Tecnológico de Costa Rica (TEC), which for 15 years has been developing methods and technologies based on microorganisms to replace synthetic pesticides and fertilizers.
“It is to use microorganisms to replace pesticides, based on microorganisms we formulate options or technological products that are going to replace certain pesticides, so some of the products we make are used as fungicides, bactericides, insecticides and some fertilizers, to replace fertilizers synthetics that are made from petroleum, since we use microorganisms to achieve similar effects in the plant”, said William Rivera, professor and researcher of Biological Control.
Helping the environment
One of the greatest gratifications is that they convert microorganisms into new technologies, that is, products that can be licensed and even marketed, helping the environment.
What they do is first detect a problem or disease associated with a plant that performs a control with highly toxic pesticides, then they isolate microorganisms with the disease or pest, it is tested in the laboratory and if it works, it is taken to greenhouses to test it in the field.All these investigations take several years, so they need private or public investment to be able to develop these projects.
“We have a very strong interaction dynamic with the private sector, without a doubt we are a laboratory that is very united and we obtain private funds, because for the development of research normally in laboratories, we depend a lot on public funds or international competitions and We also work a lot with private companies, added Rivera.
To date they have worked with farmer associations, SMEs, cooperatives and even transnationals in the development of these products and they assure that they have a large number of requests from large companies to generate biopesticides.
However, administrative and legislative issues create obstacles to a better advance in the production of these biopesticides, such is the case of the fiscal rule that reduces the options to use resources for investments and the regulation of the registration of microbiological pesticides.
“It is paradoxical that in theory universities have a very large amount of money in certificates and cannot use it. It is paradoxical that, for example, a large amount of resources generated by the same universities are obtained that cannot be used so easily either (…) this legal and regulatory part is something that is going to have a great impact”, said Miguel Rojas, professor and researcher of the TEC.
For this reason, they call on the national authorities to make changes to the registration regulations and to evaluate a modification to the restrictions caused by the fiscal rule.
The researchers are sure that Costa Rica has the capacity to be a Central American benchmark on this issue and turn the country into a Development Center for biotechnological and microbiological products.
During the last five years, the consumption of bio-inputs has increased by 20% each year and the applications made in Costa Rica reach a value of $50 million annually, according to CIB estimates.