A new organic pesticide developed at New Mexico State University is showing great promise. Called NMX, the essential oil-based pesticide is a safe alternative to conventional chemical pesticides and solutions. NMSU Microbiologist Geoffrey Smith developed NMX with a team of three researchers, who discovered that a mixture of essential oils from common desert plants can help defend against fungus, bacteria, nematodes and some insects, such as thrips. Individual components in the essential oils have been used before as pesticides, but the NMSU team found that by keeping all the elements together, the essential oils had a synergistic effect that is much more powerful.

This environmentally “green” biocide has already been tested in lab, greenhouse and field trials in the U.S. and Mexico on a variety of plants, including tomatoes, chile, bell peppers onions and turfgrass. If approved for commercialization, the new eco-friendly product could find a ready market in California’s Salinas Valley, where some of the world’s biggest organic commercial growers are based including growers of leafy vegetables, which today have very few natural pesticides to protect their crops.

Canada is California’s top agricultural export market. Canadians imported $6.6 billion in bilateral agricultural trade in 2014 which included $1.7B in fruit and nuts and over $914M in vegetables. That includes $271 million in strawberries alone and that’s a lot of pesticide residue. In 2018, for the third year in a row, strawberries topped the “Dirty Dozen” list put out by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) as the most pesticide-loaded produce.