An edited version of this article on the importance of biostimulants appeared in the November issue of Rural Business magazine.
Are plant biostimulants too important to ignore?
In big news for European agriculture, July 2019 saw the adoption of new regulations for plant biostimulants, ensuring they are recognised as an important input in their own right, and separate to fertilisers.
Biostimulants introduce beneficial microbes and/or microbial food sources into the soil. Microbial activity in the root zone improves the plant’s ability to access nutrients. A balance of beneficial microbes also helps build levels of organic carbon in the soil. Trials and demonstrations show that there are clear benefits to including biostimulants in a fertility program, such as:
- improved water retention in the soil
- better germination and root development
- greater plant vigour and stress resistance
- more efficient energy and nutrient uptake and transport
- greater yields of higher quality.
- optimised metabolic processes leading to improved nutritional value in forage.
What is ‘healthy soil’?
Three key attributes must all be in place for healthy soil. Physical structure and the chemicals (nutrients) present in the soil are well recognised. The biological attributes have only recently begun to be recognised as being equally important. The role of beneficial microbes is a focus for a large amount of ongoing research. What we know is that we cannot afford to ignore this aspect of our soil’s health.
According to the European biostimulants industry council (EBIC), in 2012 over 6.2 million hectares of agricultural land in the EU were treated with biostimulants. This constitutes somewhere above 3% of Europe’s agricultural land. EBIC statistics also show that biostimulant usage is increasing by 10-12% each year.
Similar figures are not available for Australia but we know that the global growth in the adoption of plant biostimulants is worldwide, including the south-east Asian region.
While sustainability and soil health are important aspects of this shift, economics remains a key reason for individual growers to consider biostimulants as part of their annual nutrient planning.
As growers see the evidence of higher yields, better soil moisture profiles and crops that are more tolerant to stresses like cold and dry conditions the economic benefits are undeniable. The correct application of biostimulants at the right time in the vegetative cycle of crops and pasture is a kind of insurance policy in tough times.
Australian grown for Australian farms
BioAg Pty Ltd is an Australian, family owned company based in Narrandera NSW. 2019 marks our twentieth year manufacturing and selling plant biostimulants in liquid form, available in products such as Soil & Seed®, Balance & Grow® and Fruit & Balance®. In addition, formulated microbial digesters are a key component of their solid reactive rock phosphate fertiliser BioAgPhos® as well as their entire solids range and custom blends.
Anton Barton, the company’s founder, is clear about the potential benefits of including biostimulants into a fertility program for pasture or crops. He first saw the effect on productivity and soil health more than twenty years ago while on a study tour to the USA.
“In the US, I met Jep Gates who had been working for a number of years on the development of fermented cultures (biostimulants). Where Jep had these products in use, production was excellent and soils in good shape.
We agreed to create BioAg together and saw results with our products immediately. We set out to develop a robust body of evidentiary work, to support their use and validate our core IP. This work is ongoing and as our products have evolved over time, efficacy is being demonstrated across a growing range of soils, crops and climates. We have customers who have been with us from the beginning because they see consistent returns.”
Hay yield says it all
Long time BioAg customer Colin Falls has been featured in a number of BioAg newsletters and case studies. Since he first started working with BioAg, he’s reaped the benefits of his long term commitment to better soils on his property
This year he baled top grade export oaten hay into large square bales, achieving around 7 tonne – grossing close to $2000 – per hectare. The BioAg program developed for this property includes Soil & Seed and Balance & Grow along with Calcium Nitrate and UAN.
Riverina Canola Success
Scott Beaumont in the Riverina has been working with BioAg Area Manager Robert Gill to implement a program to improve yields in a section of his property.
In 2019, after seeing results, Scott invested in some laser levelling and planted a crop of seed canola. The seed buyer’s response was music to our ears – in his first year, this farmer had grown ‘One of the two best crops we’ve seen this year.’
If you’d like to find out how you could be growing canola up to your shoulders, talk to your local BioAg Area Manager.
For those in the Riverina and SW NSW contact Robert Gill on 0427 247 844.
Measuring the benefits of beneficial microbes
A recent article in the journal Frontiers of Plant Science, “General Principles to Justify Plant Biostimulant Claims” includes EBIC’s official definition of plant biostimulants:
“Plant biostimulant means a material which contains substance(s) and/or microorganisms whose function when applied to plants or the rhizosphere is to stimulate natural processes to benefit nutrient uptake, nutrient efficiency, tolerance to abiotic stress, and/or crop quality, independently of its nutrient content.”
This formalised definition when written into law, also means that in Europe if a product claims to be a ‘plant biostimulant’ the manufacturer must be able to justify their claims.
Independent trials are an ideal way to provide evidence, as long as they are conducted properly, following scientific principles, with a focus on data that compares treated areas with control areas, over time, measuring growth, yield, quality and soil data.
What does the future look like for plant biostimulants in Australia?
It is likely that this regulatory decision in the EU is just the beginning.
As interest in sustainability and soil health increases around the world, so does recognition of the importance of plant biostimulants. This is happening in all regions including our own. In Australia we are seeing some of the country’s most effective pastoralists and croppers reaping the benefits of including biostimulants as inputs into an annual fertility program.
With climate uncertainty and other factors continuing to apply increasing pressure on our country’s growers, it is increasingly important to consider beneficial microbes as an essential component of healthy soil.
Read our trials and case studies for stories and data to support the argument for adoption.
"While sustainability and soil health are important aspects of this shift, economics remains a key reason for individual growers to consider biostimulants as part of their annual nutrient planning."
The article in Rural Business Magazine is an edited version of the article above.
Download the Rural Business Magazine article