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How do biostimulants contribute to sustainability?

Agricultural sustainability is defined as utilizing agricultural practices that enhance environmental quality and make efficient use of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance, thereby ensuring long term viability of lands and agricultural operations. The emphasis on sustainability is to ensure that future generations have the ability to meet their agricultural and food-growing needs. Sustainability is a main benefit of the use of biostimulants because of the way biostimulants increase the efficiency of the plants own ability to utilize the natural resources available to them.

How do biostimulants differ from other agricultural inputs?

Biostimulants have been defined in the 2018 US Farm Bill and that definition matches the EBIC definition. The main difference between biostimulants and other agricultural inputs is that biostimulants are products that cause actual physiological changes in plants – affecting the various plant functions.

Do biostimulants take the place of traditional fertilizers?

No – biostimulants do not take the place of traditional fertilizers at all. Every plant has NPK
needs and micronutrients fill in the blanks. Biostimulants can make the utilization of fertilizers
and the transfer, mobilizations, and usage of fertilizers much more efficient.

Does the use of biostimulants replace the need for pesticides and herbicides?

No – biostimulants will not replace the needs for pesticides and herbicides. However, they can
reduce the plant stress caused by pesticides and herbicides. 

Specifically what bio mechanisms of the plants do biostimulants affect?

Different biostimulants will affect different physiological process of plants. Some will effect roots and some will affect specific processes. For example, some protein hydrolysates affect several plant mechanisms. Some will have Plant Growth Regulating (PGR) qualities. Some will only affect root growth. Most biostimulants, however, target one specific function – for example Humic acid for roots in the soil. Research defines exactly which functions are affected.

Is the use of biostimulants economically advantageous to growers?

It might look that bringing an additional supply of extra product (biostimulant) to a crop could be economically more expensive but having a much deeper look over a crop cycle will often show exact opposite. It depends very much on what the grower is looking for when applying biostimulants.  A few concrete examples of induced economic gain in response to biostimulant to application: 

  • Using biostimulants in combination with other traditional inputs (ferts, pesticide…) often lead
    to a better assimilation of inputs and better efficiency => economic gain due to synergistic combination effect.

  • The cost of additional biostimulants is often balanced with the reduction of traditional ag inputs.

  • Ecological gain can be realized since biostimulants are generally more sustainable, resulting in less nutrients leaching and soil improvement.

  • Biostimulants often provide better resistance to abiotic stress and much better recovery =>  insurance on crop rescue.

  • Use of biostimulants can help balance the legal ban, in some countries, of some expensive pesticide products.

  • Use of biostimulants having an effect on crop quality and especially on crop earliness or shelf
    life properties => much better market sales price for farmers.
  • Same example with biostimulants for seed treatment => much better germination results => significant extra gain for the seed blender/ farmer.

  • Use of biostimulants provide an easier approach to biological markets in regions that may forbid chemicals.

  • Biostimulants should be seen as an investment, not an extra cost, considering the end most often leads to a combination of various economical gains (global virtuous circle).
What is the future outlook of the biostimulant market?

The future looks bright for following reasons:

  • Worldwide Ag will have to do with a decreasing number of pesticide products in the future.
    Main alternatives can only come from biostimulants. As an evidence even the big 5 (largest pesticide companies) are all investing into biostimulants segment to balance their coming market share loss on pesticide (or taking over innovative smaller biostimulant players).

  • Agronomically speaking, there is a virtuous effect of biostimulants  in regards to quality and sustainability - especially in developing countries facing huge abiotic stress conditions.

  • Environmentally, biostimulants are a better choice as compared to chemical inputs when considering the demands of food players and consumers.

  • We have been seeing an increase in application of biostimulants to row crops with positive results.

  • A regulatory framework is being set up throughout many countries.

  • Biostimuants are the most innovative in the Ag segment, inviting new product creation and universities' research and funds.

  • Added value segment => price
How does a grower make his way through the “noise” ?

Biostimulants are a fashionable segment that many opportunistic companies have jumped into using the historic and general jargon of amino acids, free amino acids, plant/seaweed extract, etc.  In most parts of the world growers rely on their trusted distributor's recommendations. Depending on a product's route to market, education is needed for the technical team, distributor, and grower. 

To simplify a little bit and cascade it backward, the farmer will look for biostimulants to provide a better crop quality, insurance to help with abiotic stress, better crop sales prices at pondered cost of biostimulants. As long as a grower gets good efficiency from the product advised from the distributor, it if often enough. The technology used may not have been such a key factor for him, unless, of course, he finds that another product works even better.

From a technical & technological jargon perspective, the product particularities must be communicated to large audience - from farmers to technical conventions, adverts, and social networks, etc. ) but the key prescriptor to the end user - the grower, remains in most markets, the distributor who is often the only one able to pass on the proper message on product benefits. This applies to most markets in the world today, except for the cases whereby a grower's size and knowledge base can bypass the distribution supply chain and not rely soley on the accompanying agronomical advice.

A key success factor in the use of biostimulants is the capability to increase crop quality. However, the perceived benefits in the field may not be sufficient since many products (even cheap ones) may have a positive visual effect on short term.

This leads to second aspect related to institutional/industrial capacities. What distributors increasingly need is to partner with and be backed up by strong, innovative companies. Companies with good products, whose effectiveness are supported by evidence; aggressive research and development providing ongoing innovation for the continued development of new products; real industrial
technologies and capacities - companies who are real producers and not simply mixers of ingredients; and companies who are able able to deliver a proper message to educate the grower through technical support and verify claims of product efficacy. 

Gradually, the “chaotic noise” around biostimulants will turn into something more harmonic. Regulation will continue to evolve. All constituents will become more educated on the various types of biostimulants and their specific use and benefits. The innovators will continue to innovate and bring more clarity in a complex marketplace. 

 

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