Biostimulants – Beyond fertilizers and pesticides
Beyond fertilizers and pesticides
Why biostimulants can save agriculture going into the future
Climate change, pesticide resistance and new fertilizer regulations – agriculture faces many challenges if it is to continue to ensure that a growing world population remains healthy in the future. The strength and resistance of crops is playing an increasingly important role in the endeavour to maintain the quality and quantity of yields – but how can this be reconciled with stricter rules on fertilization and how can plants withstand pests and abiotic stress when pesticides are no longer an alternative? One solution could be the increased use of biostimulants.
Not fertilizer and not plant protection – what exactly are biostimulants?
Biostimulants cannot be assigned to either pesticides or fertilizers. This means that they neither have a defensive character against pathogens nor a significant nutrient content. However, they strengthen the resistance and tolerance of plants to abiotic stress factors such as heat and drought, have a positive effect on crop yields, crop quality and soil fertility. Biostimulants include microorganisms, algae preparations, plant and animal extracts, as well as humic and fulvic acids, most of which are effective in the rhizosphere, the root zone of plants.
Humic acids stimulate soil health and plant growth
Unlike other biostimulants, humic acids can be added to the soil before sowing to improve soil structure and support humus formation. In the soil, humic acids build stable clay-humus complexes that can store water and nutrients for a long time. As a result, both nutrients present in the soil and in added fertilizers are kept in the root area and are freely available to the plants. The undesirable leaching of fertilizers into the groundwater is thus significantly reduced – and with it the costs for fertilization and drinking water purification.
The combination of different biostimulants is particularly effective. Innovative products like BioHealth® combine the positive effects of humic acids and microorganisms. They liven the soil and have an enormously beneficial effect on plant metabolism and plant health. This means that yields remain stable even under unfavorable environmental conditions, and potential losses due to reduced fertilizer use may be compensated.
Biostimulants – a niche product for organic farmers?
Biostimulants are often associated with organic farming. In fact, many conventional farms also rely on the synergies that result from the marriage of biostimulants and fertilizers or pesticides. The European market alone is growing by ten to twelve percent annually, and the inclusion of biostimulants as a separate product group in the European fertilizer legislation will, in the future, provide more direction for the product range currently offered by some 200 manufacturers.
Biostimulants are still a novelty for many farmers. However, those who look into their application early enough could benefit considerably in the long term. In September 2019, Dr. Angela Werner of Germany's Agrarzeitung expressed her conviction: If biostimulants are used with know-how and sensitivity, the savings potential for pesticides and fertilizers is up to 60 percent.
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