The inaugural BiocontrolsSM USA East Conference & Expo in Orlando, FL, featured two days of educational sessions focused on how growers and consultants can put biocontrol products to use in effective production programs. Probably the fastest growing segment in the industry is the broad category of biostimulants.
Dr. Brian Cornelious, Director of Applied Science for Agricen, headed up an educational session focused on the basics of biostimulants and how they fit in specialty crops. With the biostimulants market expected to grow to $2.5 billion by 2021, Cornelious said it is important for the sector to organize and develop protocols for managing itself and future growth.
With so many companies and products coming online that could fall within the category, the industry is working to define what the term “biostimulant” actually means, and get a handle on the claims of performance by suppliers. Broadly, however, Cornelious said these materials improve nutrient uptake efficiency, improve abiotic stress tolerance, and improve crop quality traits.
The U.S. Biostimulant Coalition and the European Biostimulant Industry Coalition have both developed similar definitions of what biostimulants are and what they can do to help set an industry standard going forward. This all has happened in a relatively short time, which is important, according to Cornelious, to stay ahead and provide guidance as EPA gets a grip on how to regulate the industry.
He noted that EPA’s Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) was passed in the 1950s with major updates in 1972 and 2012. Since that time, the biostimulant sector has continued to grow and expand. The EPA is currently drafting its own definition of these biostimulants and setting performance standards to help clarify potential confusion in the marketplace.
Cornelious added that is why the U.S. Biostimulant Coalition is working closely and diligently with EPA and stakeholders to ensure the industry does face adequate scrutiny and standards, but not the overregulation that can often occur under FIFRA.
John Kempf, founder of Advancing Eco Agriculture, gave an interesting presentation on his concept “synergistic stacks” and how they can improve crop yields and quality. His theory surrounds how various biological materials and stimulants can work together to enhance productivity when crop cycles of plant needs and susceptibility are fully understood and addressed. And, he suggested that the proper application of water and plant nutrition makes all the difference.
He also suggested the use of synthetic rescue chemistries predisposes plants to disease and insect infections.
“When we apply a product and create a yield response, we have not increased yields, we have reduced stress,” said Kempf.