Natural Insecticide, Nematicide Key to Company’s Success

By Allison Floyd

Monday, February 25th, 2013

After 10 years of spreading the message that peanuts can be grown with a more natural pesticide to protect them, Ronny Shingler and Linton Thompson are reaching a broader audience: vegetable growers.

The two men own Blakely, Ga.-based Georgia Organic Solutions, a company that found success selling a more natural way to control pests on the farm while still getting high yields. The geography of their homes – both in rural South Georgia – meant that their first and biggest customer base was peanut farmers.

But as their business begins its second decade, Shingler and Thompson are spending more and more time on the road working with vegetable farmers.

“People are more and more concerned about food safety,” Shingler said. “Vegetable growers are all talking about it.”

The partners now are crisscrossing the Southeast, from New Orleans to Asheville, N.C., logging 10,000 miles on the road in the first two months of the 2013.

“Don’t misunderstand. Only 2 percent of our clients are organic (farmers). Most are conventional growers,” Shingler said.

But the Food Safety Modernization Act – which gives the FDA broad powers to track food from the farm to the consumer – has vegetable farmers talking a lot about how their product is perceived. And many of them are taking a closer look at green chemistry.

That shift comes as Bayer CropScience phases out aldicarb (which is sold under the brand name Temik), a toxic insecticide used on cotton and several food crops. The company agreed in 2010 to end distribution by 2017. Use on citrus and potatoes was banned beginning last year, and all remaining uses will end in 2018.

“What was out there before was toxic poison,” Shingler said. “Our product is so safe, it’s used in cosmetics. We’ve gone from one end of the spectrum to the other.”

Researchers at the University of Georgia and Auburn University have validated GOS’ claims that their neem oil-based product is effective in fighting pests and leads to higher yield over non-treated crops.

But opinions about alternative products change most as people watch the success of neighboring farmers year after year, Shingler said.

“Ten years ago, a lot of people would just walk off,” Shingler said. “Now, they have seen other people have a lot of success and aren’t so quick to dismiss us.”

Georgia Organic Solutions sells GOS Neem 7-Way, a natural product made from the tropical neem tree. The product includes several compounds found in neem and controls nematodes and almost 200 species of insect pests. Studies around the world have found that neem is as potent as many chemical pesticides, but safer and less likely to allow insects to develop resistance.

GOS Neem 7-Way is registered to control nematodes, thrips, aphids, beetles, stink bugs, caterpillars, scale, leadhoppers, leafminers, whiteflies, mealy bugs, midges and mites.

Not all of GOS products are neem-based, but those are the most popular.

The next innovation in GOS Neem is a simple thing. By 2014, the partners expect to have ready a new version of the product with an emulsifier that allows the oil to suspend in water.

“That doesn’t sound like a big deal, but really it is,” he said.

The partners also will soon add salesman and a distributor.

For more on Georgia Organic Solutions, go to www.healthy-crops.com

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