Controlling pests with the help of nature

Angie Khumalo, presenter of Mzansi Wethu’s agricultural show African Farming, developed her wine-tasting skills while talking to a legend in the winemaking industry. She interviewed multi-award-winning winemaker, Ntsiki Biyela, who is the first black female winemaker in South Africa.

Biyela worked hard to become one of the most recognised names in the world of wines. The Aslina wine range, named after her beloved grandmother, is a premium wine brand, sold all over the world. In the studio, Khumalo talked to Ben Schoonwinkel, Head of Customer Marketing at Syngenta, about the importance of controlling pesticides in a vineyard. 

“Reducing the amount of chemicals being used in the winemaking process is vital, as the industry wants to sell naturally produced wines,” she said.

“Is there a natural way of controlling pests and reducing the amount of chemical pesticides in a vineyard?” she asked him. 

Schoonwinkel said the alcohol, and especially the wine industry, suffered great financial losses because of the lockdown to curb the spread Covid-19. 

“Let’s drink a little bit more wine in the coming three months,” he urged Khumalo.

According to Schoonwinkel, farmers can use biologically developed pesticides and biological methods of controlling pests, in conjunction with chemicals, to reduce the amount of chemicals used. This way they can control pests on a more sustainable and environmentally friendly way. 

Growing concerns over the impact of chemical pesticides on people’s health and the environment moved the industry to search for alternative and greener solutions. Syngenta is developing a new line of biocontrols based on RNA. 

A biocontrol product is designed to be very selective, so that it only affects the target pest(s). When it is sprayed onto the plant, the biocontrol targets a pest which is capable of destroying an entire crop; their initial data indicates that beneficial insects and even closely related species are not harmed. The RNA-based biocontrol is then broken down in the environment and does not affect the plant.

The exciting nature of RNA-based biocontrols and the potential benefits for people, farmers and the environment mean that Syngenta is committed to being transparent in how they are developed and to periodically make data available.

“Sustainability is part of everything we do at Syngenta,” he said, “from developing innovative products that help farmers grow more from less, to controlling the impact of our operations,” Schoonwinkel said.  

Syngenta is convinced that the value of the creation – whether in the short-, medium- or long-term – depends on successfully integrating business, social and environmental performance. The company’s Good Growth Plan enables them to measure their progress against the commitments they have made to boosting resource efficiency, rejuvenating ecosystems and strengthening rural communities. Syngenta is committed to accelerating innovation to find better, safer solutions to address the shared challenge of climate change and biodiversity loss.

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