Plant Biostimulants 

Biostimulants reduce the need for fertilizers and boost plant growth and resistance to stress. In low amounts, they can be effective and enhance the performance of plants’ vital processes, allowing for high yields and high-quality products. 

Biostimulants added to plants can improve nutrition efficiency or abiotic stress tolerance and quality characteristics in plants regardless of their nutrients. Recently, biostimulants have been generating interest among many farmers. As these products gain more attention, it is evident that there’s plenty of discussion about their efficacy. Let’s look at the various plant biostimulants and their accomplishments.

What are Plant Biostimulants?

Biostimulants have been proven to boost many factors that influence plant growth, including roots’ growth, the roots’ diameter, capacity to hold water in the soil, and increased microbial activity, leading to increased availability of nutrient sources and numerous other factors. In general but the results can be highly variable. It is based on the weather, the type of soil organic matter content, the tillage technique, and the kind of crop rotation. 

The most important thing to remember is that these products can’t give nutrients and are therefore considered biostimulants. They don’t affect the quality of fertilizers, but they speed up or increase the availability rate.

Biostimulants in Agriculture

While science has done impressive work providing information to farmers to make their choices is still a bit lacking. Farmers are encouraged to utilize these biostimulants from plants due to the positive publicity generated by the science and advertising companies that have placed them on the market. 

Use of Plant Biostimulants 

The agricultural sector has been facing the challenges of increasing the efficiency to meet the demands of the increasing world population, increasing the efficiency of using resources, and minimizing the impact on the environment and human health. 

Actually, fertilizers and pesticides play essential roles in agriculture. They are a potent instrument for growers to increase yield and to ensure constant performance throughout the seasons, even in suboptimal and optimal conditions. 

Over the last 30 years, various technological advancements have been proposed to increase the sustainability of agriculture production systems, with the reduction of synthetic agrochemicals such as the use of pesticides as well as fertilizers. A promising and environmentally-friendly innovation would be the use of natural plant biostimulants that enhance flowering, plant growth, fruit set, crop productivity, and nutrient use efficiency and can also improve the tolerance against a wide range of abiotic stressors.

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Implications of Agricultural Biostimulants

The market for biostimulants in plants comprises one sub-category in the overall biotechnology for plants marketplace. It is estimated at $2.5 billion and projected to increase to more than 4 billion by 2025.

Agricultural or plant biostimulants include bio-based or biologically derived fertilizer additives and similar products used in the production of crops to enhance and improve existing practices in agriculture and crop inputs. They may achieve this through:

  • Contributing to improving the efficiency of the use of nutrients.
  • Helping plants withstand abiotic stressors such as cold, heat, and drought. It also helps them to fight excessive water.
  • Aiding in improving qualities such as nutritional content, appearance, and shelf-life.

Plant biostimulants include a broad range of products, including microbial or bacterial inoculants, biochemical material amino acids, humic acids, seaweed extracts, fulvic acid, and many more.

Components of Plant Biostimulants 

Biostimulant supplements typically contain components in one or more categories:

  • Hydrolysates of proteins. These include small amino acids and peptides. They are the basic building blocks of all proteins.
  • Seaweed and extracts of plants. Seaweed extract may be a source of minor nutrients as well as phytohormones like Cytokinins. Plant extracts can contain compounds that stimulate the metabolism of plants or even natural defense mechanisms. The precise chemical composition in these supplements is usually not understood.
  • Humic acids and Fulvic acid. These acids occur naturally in soils because of the decomposition of organic matter.
  • Various beneficial microbes. These products are based on the action of live fungi or bacteria.
  • Chitosan and biopolymers. “Biopolymers” are particular molecules derived from plants or animal sources. For example, chitosan comes from crustacean shells.
  • Organic compounds. These are mineral-based molecules like phosphites and other minor elements, such as silicon.

Types of Plant Biostimulants – Microbial and Non-Microbial 

Protein hydrolysates that contain primarily signaling peptides and free amino acids have gained much attention as non-microbial plant biostimulants due to their ability to boost the seedling’s growth, germination, plant growth, fruit and vegetable quality, and productivity of the crop, particularly under stress conditions. 

The plant microbiomes are also altered by the use of protein hydrolysates. Additionally, some of the benefits gained from these products could be due to the changes in the quantitative composition and activities of the communities of microbial life.

Seaweed extracts (SWE) are a different class of organic non-microbial biostimulants. However, red and green macroalgae, as well as brown macroalgae, are the most popular SWE that is used in horticulture and agriculture. There are numerous commercial products for sale. 

Macroalgae typically come from oceans and marine environments, which can impact their chemical structure and quality of the base material, which causes problems in standardizing and obtaining quality and reliability of the extract products. Therefore, the search for the controlled cultivation of algae grown in the house is a crucial requirement for scientists and private businesses. 

Various plant biostimulants derived from industrial and agricultural by-products are vermicompost and composted urban solid wastes, sewer sludge, and Chitosan/chitin derivatives. 

Besides non-microbial and bacterial biostimulants, microbial-based biostimulants such as PGPR and AMF are widely considered effective and sustainable instruments. They ensure yield stability under low-input conditions, including the case of N or P deficiencies (i.e., biofertilizer effects). However, they also serve as a novel technology that can improve the resistance of crops to stressors from abiotic sources, including extreme temperatures, salinity, and drought. 

Plant Biostimulants Products

There are numerous plant biostimulant products available in the market. What to do when selecting the best one?

  • Look up the ingredients list. If the product has microbes, it is important to look up some Latin names. Beware of products that contain nothing less than “proprietary blend,” “beneficial microbes,” “mycorrhizae,” or something similar to that. The lack of knowing what you are getting hinders the ability to do your own research on the value and effectiveness of the product.
  • Select a product that a third party has evaluated. This means that someone who is not associated with the business produces the product. Universities typically conduct these tests. Any company with products that have produced excellent results from tests conducted by third parties will probably make this information public.
  • Find relevance during testing. Please choose a product tested on the particular crop (or the kind) you wish to apply or utilize in the field or a greenhouse).
  • Make sure you focus on the outcome you want to achieve. Look for evidence that a particular chemical has been proven to bring the results you are looking for. Remember that increasing vegetation growth can sound wonderful but is usually associated with a decline in the size and number of flowers unsuitable for most ornamentals.
  • Visit this source. Don’t hesitate to call or email the company asking for your needed information.

Biostimulants Reduce the Requirement of Fertilizers

Sustainable agriculture that promotes eco-friendly and sustainable methods to increase the growth of plants and crop yields has become important in recent years. Because of the growing population and the consequent demand for food, it is essential to implement agricultural strategies that boost productivity, without harming the environment or health of the human. The most recent research has shown that biostimulants are an effective alternative that could aid in the development of plants without negative side effects and also reduce the dependence on fertilizers.

There are many ways to apply for biostimulants. It is used as soil preparations, such as powders, granules, or as a liquid foliar product. It is essential to understand that biostimulants do not function as fertilizers because they don’t give plants nutrients. However, it aids in the metabolic process within plants that aid in the absorption of crucial nutrients.

Microbial biostimulants like plants that promote growth, such as Rhizobacteria PGPR, are recognized for their potent formulations. They increase crop yield, nutrient uptake, and resistance to pests and environmental stresses. Plant growth-promoting bacteria also play the role of biofertilizers and plant growth control and induction of systemic resistance to diseases and plant growth enhancement, maintenance of soil fertility, and resistance to salinity and water stress.

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Outlook and Challenges Ahead

Plant biostimulants containing natural substances and microbiological inoculants are a new and promising type of agricultural inputs in addition to agrochemicals, including synthetic fertilizers and increasing tolerance to environmental stresses, and increasing the quality of both horticultural and agricultural products. 

The mode of action of plant biostimulants could be summarized in three groups: 

  • Plant growth promoters/inhibitors 
  • Stress alleviators 
  • Combined action. 

In the near term, the major players in plant biostimulants (scientists or private industry) must focus on creating a new generation of biostimulants. They must have specific synergistic stimulatory effects using non-microbial and microbial phytochemicals that make agricultural production more sustainable and durable.

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