A photo of a lentil plant growing.
Two USask scientists were instrumental in developing an innovative, biological crop protection that will be used by growers for the first time this spring. (Photo: Gloria Gingera)

Innovative new crop protection developed with USask research

SASKATOON – University of Saskatchewan (USask) researchers are helping protect crops using biologicals as an ecofriendly alternative to synthetic chemicals and GMO solutions.

Two USask scientists were instrumental in developing an innovative, biological crop protection that will be used by growers for the first time this spring.

Professors emeritus Dr. Vladimir Vujanovic (PhD) and Dr. James Germida (PhD) with the College of Agriculture and Bioresources worked with USask to patent and license their invention based on the recent discovery of using microbes for protecting crops and promoting growth at the seed stage.

Germida and Vujanovic’s research into biological-based defences for crops has led to the creation of a new bionematicide – a pesticide created from biological sources for battling plant parasitic nematodes and protecting crops.  

“Living micro-organisms can target an insect or a microbial pathogen in a number of different ways,” Germida said. “With biologicals, because they become associated with the plant and the plant’s microbiome, they become a member of that community during the life cycle of the host plant ... The biological is there and ready to react.”

Building on the academic research started at USask, scientists at Indigo Ag have developed and launched a new bionematicide product to support growers and protect their crops.

Indigo Ag’s biotrinsic® Z15 was commercially launched in August 2023 and is available for farmers to begin using in the 2024 planting season on soybeans and corn. Per Indigo Ag’s press release, the new bionematicide not only helps defend plants from harmful nematodes but also improved the yields of row crops including soybean, corn, cereals, and legumes in testing.

Z15 is applied to crop seeds before they are planted and works to fend off problematic nematodes and reduce their ability to reproduce.

“Despite the fact that there are several nematicide products available – both synthetic and biological – soybean cyst nematodes continue to spread geographically, and the economic losses are increasing. Soybean cyst nematodes alone cause an estimated $1.5 billion in crop losses in the U.S. Farmers need new products that are effective in combating these pests. biotrinsic® Z15 combines multiple defense and protective actions, providing an effective new choice for farmers,” said Georg Goeres, global head of biologicals for Indigo Ag.

Vujanovic said his research focuses on micro-organisms that have the potential to increase the vitality of seeds. He stressed the value of using naturally occurring biologicals to defend crops and said research into beneficial plant micro-organisms continues to bear fruit as new biological protections are discovered.

He highlighted the importance of collaboration combining different areas of research – Vujanovic with more of a focus on plant and food microbiology and Germida on soil microbiology – to develop new ways to protect crops.

“It is so critical that we should not just continue to combine our traditional with modern approaches in science ... we have to discover integrative scientific strategies to meet sustainable agriculture standards that are more safe, secure, and more efficient,” Vujanovic said.

According to Germida, using microbial inoculants is a solution that has existed for many decades. But researchers continue to find new organisms with new applications, and Germida said that can lead to the possibility of new and better products like biotrinsic® Z15.

“Some of the newer technologies are focused on organisms that are yet to be discovered, and their benefits are yet to be identified,” Germida said. “Anything that we can do to increase food production and protect plants ... is just a real benefit for society.”

As Indigo Ag provides growers with biotrinsic® Z15 to go into the ground this spring, Vujanovic said he is “extremely pleased” to see the results of their research going to the farmers.

“The role of academia is to ensure the future,” he said. “When we are talking about the future we are talking about food security, we are talking about climate change ... if we have more safety products and as human beings we continue to do something for the well-being of society, it definitely is our role, and it’s rewarding for any scientist, including myself.”

This research was supported with funding from the Genome Prairie – Genome Canada Genomic Applications Partnership Program (GAPP) and the Agricultural Development Fund (ADF).


For media inquiries, contact:Brooke KleiboerUSask Media Relationsbrooke.kleiboer@usask.ca306-966-1388