Potential of Biopesticide in Indian Agriculture vis-a-vis Rural Development



Bikramjit Sinha and Indranil Biswas


This article focuses on the importance of biopesticides in Indian agriculture and parallel rural development particularly as a component of the Integrated Pest Management System. But there are certain limitations like irregular availability of biopesticides in the market and the gradual disappearance of mixed/multiple cropping affecting the growth of biopesticides.  It is observed that India occupies a comparatively better position in the arena of biopesticides; in terms of growth of usage, percentage share of the total pesticide market and also in research publications. The driving forces behind this progress are identified as huge research infrastructure (universities and bio-control labs) and  favorable public support system/policies. Subsequently, it delves on strategies to incorporate the promotion of biopesticides into rural development efforts like recognition of the huge traditional knowledge base through a Public Guarantee System and incentivize/support the purchase and use of biopesticides developed using indigenous technologies.



So far, use of synthetic chemical pesticides had been the widely used approach for reducing the estimated 45% gross crop loss due to pests and diseases, amounting to around Rs. 290 billion per annum. More and more quantities of chemicals are used for agricultural intensification to feed an ever growing population. In fact, the pest induced loss is on the rise despite increasing usage of pesticides. Fortunately, realization of the negative effects of these chemicals on nature and natural resources like pollution, pesticide residue, pesticide resistance etc, have forced many to shift focus on to more reliable, sustainable and environment friendly agents of pest control, the biopesticides. In spite of the claimed efficacy, their use, however, has remained very low due to a number of socio-economic, technological and institutional constraints. Nonetheless, rise in income levels due to a growing economy coupled with increasing awareness of health related effects of chemical pesticides has increased the demand of organic food. In view of this demand and the government’s efforts to mitigate climate change, biopesticides are going to play an important role in future pest management programmes.


Scope of Biopesticides

A pesticide that is of biological origin i.e., viruses, bacteria, pheromones, plant or animal compounds is known as biopesticide. Or simply origin of the active ingredient of a biopesticide is natural not synthetic. They are highly specific affecting only the targeted pest or closely related pests and do not harm humans or beneficial organisms while chemical pesticides are broad spectrum and known to affect non-target organisms including predators and parasites as well as humans.

The striking feature of biopesticides is environment friendliness and easy biodegradability, thereby resulting in lower pesticide residues and largely avoiding pollution problems associated with chemical pesticides. Further, use of biopesticides as a component of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) programs can greatly decrease the use of conventional (chemical) pesticides, while achieving almost the same level of crop yield. However, effective use of biopesticides demands understanding of a great deal about managing pests especially by the end users.

In terms of production and commercialization also biopesticides have an edge over chemical pesticides like low research expenditure, faster rate of product development as well as flexible registration process.


Factors affecting growth of biopesticides

However, some of the factors which have restricted the growth of biopesticides are:


Usage of Biopesticides

The global weighted average consumption level of biopesticides is approximately 1 kg/ha. With the global organic farming area comprising about 24 million hectares, global biopesticide consumption is thus estimated at about 24 million kg.


Industry Overview

The Biopesticide market is growing very rapidly. In 2005, biopesticides accounted for about 2.5% of the total pesticide market, which was merely 0.2% during 2000. This share is expected to grow to about 4.2% by 2010 while the market value is estimated to reach more than US$ 1 billion (Source: BCC research). However, the overall growth rate of biopesticides is estimated to be about 10% per annum for the next 5 years.

In terms of use, orchards claim the largest share (55%) of the total biopesticides used. Region wise, North America consumes the largest share (40%) of the global biopesticide production followed by Europe and Oceanic countries accounting for 20% each.




Figure 1: Trend of global pesticide vis-à-vis biopesticide market

Source: Business Communication Company Inc.




R &D status of biopesticides

The biopesticide R&D status presented here is based on two parameters; publications and patents.  This status is based on the information available in the Scopus database which was searched with the keyword ‘biopesticide’ for the time period up to 2007.

Total Indian publication on biopesticide stands at 443 papers which accounts for 13.23% of the 3,348 global papers in the field. The share of India in biopesticide related patents is only 3.55% of the global holdings.




Fig 2:  Trend of bio-pesticide research outputs

Source: Scopus; keyword-biopesticide




Research publications in biopesticides from India, as well as the world, are increasing but the degree of increase is very high in case of global publications. The average annual growth rate of global publications during the specified period is 51.1% while that of India is 37.4%. In terms of patenting, Indian condition appears to be very poor whereas in the case of global patents it is showing a slight increase over the years. India has so far secured only 19 patents in biopesticides.


Biopesticide in India

Biopesticides represent only 2.89% (as on 2005) of the overall pesticide market in India and is expected to exhibit an annual growth rate of about 2.3% in the coming years (Thakore, 2006). In India, so far only 12 types of biopesticides have been registered under the Insecticide Act, 1968 (www.nicm.org.in/biopesticides/registered.htm). Neem based pesticides, Bacillus thuringensis, NPV and Trichoderma are the major biopesticides produced and used in India (http://coe.mse.ac.in/taxproj.asp). Whereas more than 190 synthetics are registered for use as chemical pesticides. Most of the biopesticides find use in public health, except a few that are used in agriculture. Besides, i) transgenic plants and ii) beneficial organisms called bio-agents: are used for pest management in India.

Consumption of biopesticides has increased from 219 metric tons in 1996-97 to 683 metric tons in 2000-01, and about 85% of the biopesticides used are neem based products. Consumption of chemical pesticides has significantly fallen from 56,114 MT to 43,584 MT during the same period.



Table 1:   Annual availability of biopesticides in India



Quantity/annum (approx)

Neem 300 PPM

1,000,000 L

Neem 1500 PPM

250,000 L


50,000 kg

NPV (liquid)

500,000 Le



Pheromone traps

500,000 nos.


2 million


1 million

Chrysoperla & other

biocontrol insects



500 T


Source:  Kalra & Khanuja 2007



Some success stories about successful utilization of biopesticides and bio-control agents in Indian agriculture include (Kalra & Khanuja, 2007):


Public support system

The Indian government is promoting research, production, registration and adoption of biopesticides with open hands, through various rules, regulations, policies and schemes. The Department of Biotechnology (DBT) spearheads the promotion of biopesticides, especially research funding and production.

The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) has 31 bio-control production facilities while DBT supports another 22. The National Agriculture Technology Project (NATP) led IPM project during 1998 to 2005 also enhanced the use of biopesticides. States like Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh already have 200 laboratories producing biopesticides.


The National Centre for Integrated Pest Management (NCIPM) looks after plant protection needs in various agro-climatic zones of the country. Besides, it oversees the setting up and running of State Bio-control Labs (SBCLs). There are around 38 such SBCLs across the country, which are engaged in production and distribution of natural predators and parasites to farmers.

The Insecticide Act of 1968 has been amended accordingly to simplify the process of registration to allow speedier development and production of biopesticides.

The National Farmer Policy 2007 has strongly recommended the promotion of biopesticides for increasing agricultural production, sustaining the health of farmers and environment. It also includes the clause that biopesticides would be treated at par with chemical pesticides in terms of support and promotion.


Table 2: Acts and policies for regulation and promotion of biopesticides in India 



The Insecticide Act, 1968        [Act]

To regulate the import, manufacture, sale, transport, distribution and use of insecticides with a view to prevent risk to human beings or animals, and for matters connected therewith

Insecticides (Amendment) Act, 2000


Notifications issued recently under the Insecticide Act, 1968


The Insecticide Rules, 1971       [Rules]

Functioning of CIB, licensing, registration, production, packaging and transport of insecticides

The Destructive Insects and Pests Act, 1914                                        [Act]

To prevent the introduction into and the transport from one state to another in India of any insects, fungus or other pest which or may be destructive to crops

The Destructive Insects and Pests (Amendments and validation) Act, 1992


The Plants, Fruits and Seeds Order, 1989                                        [Act]

Regarding regulation of import into India

Recent Amendments to PFS Order, 1989


Promotion of Integrated Pest Management, 1991              [Scheme]

To promote use of biopesticides: neem based pesticides, bacillus based biopesticides, insect pathogen as alternative to chemical pesticides

National Agriculture Policy 2000  


Recommends use of biotechnology for evolving pest-resistant crop plants

National Farmer Policy 2007         


Recommended support and promotion of biopesticides as par with chemical pesticides




How biopesticides can contribute to rural development?

Growth of the agriculture sector is a prerequisite for economic development in general and rural development in particular. And this growth must be both pro-poor and environmentally sustainable to reduce poverty and improve the quality of life in rural areas.

This growth can be accelerated in part through recognition and capitalization of the rich traditional knowledge base of India especially in areas like eco-friendly pest management. Let’s have a look at the gamut of information already available from the traditional wisdom. As many as 2,121 plant species are documented to possess pest management properties, 1,005 species of plants exhibiting insecticide properties, 384 with anti-feedant properties, 297 with repellant properties, 27 with attractant properties and 31 with growth inhabiting properties have been identified. Some plants like Azadirachta, Cymbopogon have already been exploited for commercial production of biopesticides. Hundreds of such plants like Mahua, Tagetes, and Chenopodium etc. await serious attention.

Institutes like Centre for Indian Knowledge Systems, National Innovation Foundation and others are involved in exploring and promoting traditional pesticides. A lot more needs to be done for optimum utilization of the traditional wisdom for sustainable rural development.

In this regard the recommendation suggested by the National Farmer Commission is praiseworthy. It says that the government should provide incentive/support measures for promoting the purchase of products developed through indigenous technologies especially in some areas including biopesticides. This is indeed a very concrete approach to boost rural livelihood and though the National Farmers Policy, 2007 recommended support and promotion of biopesticides as per with chemical pesticides, it did not spell out any specific mechanism of support like the one being mentioned here.

 Another approach to promote biopesticide use vis-à-vis rural development is to work out a mechanism to certify traditional biopesticides in the line of Public Guarantee System (PGS) of organic products which is still under discussion. This certification system should be started and integrated with the Panchayat System for administrative control. The universities and research organizations can contribute to the certification process by providing empirical scientific efficacy of the traditional practices.

Biopesticide has the potential to be developed into a rural industry like many other sectors. For instance ‘Natural dye’ has successfully emerged as a rural household industry in the villages adopted by Gandhigram in Tamil Nadu. Likewise, the production of biopesticides can be a decentralized activity under the Ministry of Rural development. But to create such an industry a lot of ground work needs to be done such as appropriate mechanism of production (including selection of products and processes, beneficiaries, technical know-how) and marketing and such others.







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