In Uruguay and Argentina, medicinal cannabis is a relatively new commercial crop with a promising future – according to Luis Espinoza, Biobest Manager for Latin American Countries.
While Uruguay has many small producers of recreational cannabis, legalised commercial production is hampered by Government regulations and controls - with only low tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) varieties legal. However, in the medicinal cannabis sector commercial growers have a greater degree of governmental freedom - in regard to varieties and propagation methods - making it a more attractive option.
Working with pioneers
“With our long-term local partner Brometan, we are working with a pioneering cannabis crop producer in Uruguay that has adopted the latest production techniques including in-vitro propagation techniques,” explains Luis.
“For the pharmaceutical market, to ensure the crop is uncontaminated, operations must adhere to strict regulations, often with zero tolerance for conventional chemical crop protection residues. We are collaborating with the cannabis crop production team in Uruguay to develop and implement pest control strategies relying on beneficials.”
Overcoming major aphid challenge
“Thrips are now being successfully controlled in the crop using Biobest's Swirskii-System and Orius-System,” explains Brometan Product Manager Carlos Silvestre. “The major pest challenge is now aphids - cannabis crops can attract a wide range of species. We are importing Biobest's Aphidoletes-System – which predates on over 40 aphid species - to successfully control the pest.”
Expansion in Argentina
In neighbouring Argentina, medicinal cannabis operations are also proliferating in some provinces. Jujuy Province, in the extreme north west, is home to several mixed medicinal cannabis enterprises combining Government and private funding - often from abroad.
“It is illegal to import cannabis plants into Argentina - new enterprises have to start from scratch, importing seeds,” explains Carlos. “In association with the Instituto Nacional de Tecnología Agrícola (INTA), Brometan and Biobest Argentina are working with a large enterprise that has developed different varieties and cultivation methods.
“The crop production team is now utilising Swirskii-System and Orius-System, which is working well to control thrips in the crop. The pandemic has restricted access and added to the challenges, however, our team - led by Brometan’s Technical Representative Maria José Ramirez - has worked hard to overcome these difficulties and we hope to replicate experiences and successes from Uruguay.”
Biobest Cannabis Task Force
Set up in 2019, the Biobest Cannabis Task Force – encourages and facilitates exchange of information between colleagues in different regions, fostering collaboration, promoting excellence and directing the longer-term strategy in this crop.
“The task force gathers technical knowledge, strategies and protocols from different geographical regions, to produce the best global strategies and solution,” explains Luis.
“Many of Biobest's cannabis crop protection strategies have been developed with pioneering growers, many in North America. We have used our expertise to manipulate introduction rates of natural enemies to meet efficacy and cost objectives, while mitigating risk to the crop. Combined with local expertise, this is proving invaluable when working and advising growers in this highly specialised sector in South America.”