Our bodies may love pesticide-free produce, but for growers, today’s toxin-wary consumer is proving a bit of a headache. Combine consumer sentiment with an increasingly stringent regulatory and they’re slammed with the prospect of fighting pests and pathogens with not a lot in the arsenal.
Dr Alison Stewart, however, has identified naturally occurring microbes with attributes that can be exploited for plant health, including growth promotion, disease control, enhanced nutrient uptake, and drought tolerance. And she’s come up with a way for those in the agriculture sector to harness this natural power.
Stewart’s 25 years of research has led to the development of various biocontrol products for crops ranging from grapes to onions and lettuces. Her prototypes have been licensed to many New Zealand agribusinesses, and with the global biopesticide market predicted to quadruple over the next decade, she’s well placed to ride the wave. Next up: tackling apple, pasture and cereal diseases.
As well as snagging the coveted Most Inspiring Individual title, Stewart was also a finalist in the environment and agriculture category.