Athlete-style nutrition for a plant: The science of biostimulants
To excel in their sport, most athletes consume a diet as carefully planned as their training regimen. Vitamins, minerals, proteins and other sports supplements enhance both their mental and physical strength. Plants respond similarly to biostimulants, which can be used to activate their metabolism and influence biological processes within the plant.
What are biostimulants?
Biotstimulants foster plant development in a number of demonstrated ways throughout the crop lifecycle, from seed germination to plant maturity. They can be applied to plant, seed, soil or other growing media that may enhance the plant’s ability to assimilate nutrients and properly develop.
By fostering complementary soil microbes and improving metabolic efficiency, root development and nutrient delivery, biostimulants can:
- Increase yield in terms of weight, seed and fruit set.
- Enhance quality, affecting sugar content, color and shelf life.
- Improve the efficiency of water usage.
- Strengthen stress tolerance and recovery.
Currently, humic and fulvic acids constitute more than half of the biostimulant market, with seaweed extracts being secondary. Microbial extracts, plant extracts, vitamin B, chitin and chitosan round out the market offerings, according to the 2nd World Congress on the use of Biostimulants in Agriculture in November 2015.
Other names for biostimulants include plant strengtheners and conditioners, phytostimulants, bioactivators and soil, yield, crop and plant growth enhancers. Despite their increasing use, at this point, no country in the world has a regulatory framework that defines specifically what is a biostimulant.
Why are they being used?
The global market for biostimulants is projected to increase 12 percent per year and tip past the $2 billion sales mark by 2018, according to a November 2015 Markets and Markets report. There are multiple contributors to this rise:
- Proven performance and acceptance from NGOs, governmental bodies and academia.
- Increased commercial customization of solutions.
- The need to restore degraded soil.
- Demand from farmers and consumers for environmentally safe and organic products that provide alternatives to synthetic inputs.
- Increasing agronomic production demands.
Presently, Europe represents the lion’s share of the biostimulant market at 42 percent. North America and Asia are estimated to have approximately 20 percent market share each, with Latin America at 13 percent, according to the 2nd World Congress on the use of Biostimulants in Agriculture in November 2015.