Even if your closest experience with agriculture is your local grocery, is very likely that you have bumped with such fancy terms as “biostimulant” or “biofertilizer” along your daily roams around the web.
It’s not surprise that this concepts are being the talk of the town: consumer’s tangible concern about the origin and quality of the food for sale, the rising awareness of the human impact over the enviroment and the worrying problem that climate change entrails to thousands of farming lands across the globe are starting great changes in the farming sector. Right now, farmers and companies are looking forward to solve these problems without a negative effect in crops productivity.
Of course, biotechnology reveals itself as one of the prime ways to solve such problems. This fact may rise some questions: How can biotechnology deal with these necesary changes? How will it impact on the global agricultural landscape? What do the markets have to say about these new techs? But, probably what you are asking yourself right now: What the heck is a biostimulant? Don’t worry, here in Inspira Biotech we got you covered and, through this article, we are going to make a biostimulant expert out of you!
What is a biostimulant?
According to EBIC (European Biostimulant Industry Council), plant biostimulants contain substances or micro-organisms whose function when applied to plants is to stimulate natural processes to enhance or benefit nutrient uptake, nutrient efficiency, tolerance of abiotic stress (such as lack of water or nutrients) and crop quality. A good example of biostimulant could Symborg’s patented fungus or Algaenergy’s preparations.
Biostimulants act over the plant through mechanisms other than fertilizers or other elements we can add to our crops, like pesticides.
While fertilizers add elements to the soil to enhance its nutritional value, biostimulants direct plant’s biochemical reactions to the trait we want to improve. For example, to enhance root’s growth for maximum nutrient abspsortion. Thus, biostimulants aren’t coming to take fertilizers jobs but to improve their effects over the crops. This tandem have repercussions both in the farmer’s bank acount and in the enviroment because it maximizes nutrient’s explotation, achieving more with less resources and it decreases the pollution related to the use of certain kind of fertilizers.
Let the markets speak
Knowing their great growth potential, biostimulants are rapidly becoming an interesting investment opportunity. Europe is presented as the biggest biostimulant’s market around the globe, with 8.5 millions of hectares being treated with these products according to data from 2016. Their actual growth, which is expected to reach its peak on 2022 with a profit of 1.1 billions of USD, is based on governtmental emphasis to promote sosteinable farming and the rising concern of the general population about products impact on the enviroment.
North America is the second most important international market. It has the prospect of reaching 766.01 million of USD in 2022. Their growth is explained by the need of increasing food security in a region that historically opted to use chemical fertilizers.
Latin America is one of the fastest growing markets at the moment and probably the one which has the best posibilities of growing further in production, research and development of biostimulants, being Brazil the biggest player in the region. Population increase and the threat of climate change make this region a key point for using this kind of products.
At this very moment, there is no global normative that regulates biostimulants as their own product category. This leads to different strategies, that could differ greatly even in the same geo-economic region, concerning their use. Europe is working in the European Union’s Fertilizers Harmonized Regulation, that aims to regulate fertilizing elements and biostimulants as a whole to achive the free circulation of these products across all members of de EU.
Latin America is still working on an arrangement that could regulate biostimulants across all their territories. However, countries as Chile, Peru or Bolivia lack completely of regulations that differenciate biostimulants from synthetic fertilizers or organic materials such as guano. It seems it will be a long road ahead.
USA shares the same situation with Europe: the states differ legally in the definition and regulation of biostimulants. Some biostimulants are regulated by EPA (Enviromental Protection Agency) but others are registrated as fertilizers or state level soil conditioners.
The obstacles to brave
Even knowing ther benefits and expansive possibilities, biostimulants must face two great problems: the legal one ,which we just covered, and the general ignorance of their nature and use. The regulation of a common framework of biostimulant’s effectiveness tests and ecotoxicity is mandatory in all territories that share a common economical region to achieve governtmental approval.
Even there is still a long road ahead, biostimulants are making an uproar in the global agrotech landscape. The creation of councils such as the EBIC and the growing bet of this kind of tech around small companies and enviroment-friendly farms make one thing clear: there is a need for using and developing this techs, viewed as one of the main solutions to farming problems of this century and, luckily, the prelude of a more enviroment-friendly future.
What do you think? Do you believe that biostimulants are coming to stay?