“Biostimulants” is the most common term for certain products that stimulate natural processes to improve or benefit nutrient uptake, abiotic stress tolerance and ultimately crop quality and yield. Synonyms include biofertilisers, plant probiotics, biostimulators and metabolic enhancers.
Biostimulants have been used in commercial agriculture for decades, but are fast becoming, thanks not only to their sustainable and environmentally friendly origin, but also to their efficacy, commonplace. The global market for these products was estimated at $2.6 billion in 2019, with a projected value in 2025 of more than $4 billion. Common biostimulant products include algae extracts, organic acids, beneficial microbes (bacteria and fungi), protein hydrolysates or amino acids and chitosan, and less common but growing categories include microbial extracts, biochar and concentrated enzymes.
Unlike traditional inputs such as fertilisers or pesticides, biostimulants are unique in that a single product can have multiple pathways to influence crop growth and development depending on the time and place of application. Application of the same biostimulant, an algae extract for example, at planting time can influence microbial communities in the area of application, while a foliar application at vegetative growth stages can induce signalling pathways to mitigate abiotic stress.
It is important to deepen, then, the extent of biostimulant effects: while many biostimulants are intended to be applied to crops to increase productivity, many products achieve these responses through impacts on soils and root zone biology.
Could a more detailed assessment of the effects of biostimulants on soil quality reveal hitherto unknown benefits of biostimulant application?
Plant Biostimulants: A Categorical Review, Their Implications for Row Crop Production, and Relation to Soil Health Indicators
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