Biostimultants. Myths & Realities
Oct. 17, 2019
Despite the undeniable success of biostimulants on the market, this type of agricultural input has not yet been consolidated in the regular practices of farmers, who, in most cases, prioritize crop protection and crop nutrition. Even though biostimulants are an interesting proposal to numerous agricultural problems, nowadays, in many regions of the globe and amongst various agricultural and scientific communities, biostimulants are still surrounded by an aura of myths and uncertainties.
Several authors analyzed this problem and attributed its origin to a considerable sector of the biostimulant industry (Torre et al., 2013; Traon et al., 2014), which in many cases has placed commercial interests and low accuracy tests ahead of prioritizing the product’s benefit for the farmer along with the science that supports it. In addition, it is also worth mentioning that the scientific community itself has led to increment the unrealistic expectations of the uses of biostimulants through a series of successive incorrect, incomplete or misguided definitions. An example of this can be observed in the long list of names and definitions proposed for biostimulants and collected by Yakhin (Yakhin et al., 2017), including mentions such as: "biogenica stimulants,” "contain synthetic or natural plant growth regulators" or "stimulating defense mechanisms,” many of them even forged during the last 10 years.
One must comprehend the problems generated by such ambiguous definitions, which, in many cases are considerably different from those established by renowned scientists in the sector, The European Biostimulant Industrial Council (EBIC), or the latest European regulation on fertilizer products. If we add an irresponsible use with commercial zeal to this ambiguous definition, along with unproper control by existing legislations, one can consider the damage both paradigms can have in the agricultural community’s judgement, and perhaps, also its potential disappointment.
However, in recent years there have been several companies and institutions that have tried to shed a light on the confusion, and positively transform the perception of biostimulants. With science as a compass and the relevant legislation as the way, there are several actions that must be carried out without delay:
- Guarantee transparency in the meaning and limitations that the term biostimulant entails. All links of the commercial food chain, and specially the final consumer, have the right to know what a biostimulant is, how it works and what it contributes to the vegetables that will be served at the table. The farmer not only has this right, but also a more relevant one: the right to be informed of what a biostimulant is not and what a biostimulant cannot contribute to their crop.
- That scientific, governmental and agrobusiness institutions facilitate the transmission of knowledge related to the use of biostimulants, so that farmers, distributors and technicians can be trained in the correct use of said products, whose success or failure, to a large extent, is due to a meticulous and precise handling.
- That universities and accreditation centers include the handling of biostimulants in their curriculum, so that the technicians themselves, who act as consultants and are important in influencing opinions, understand their proper use and can therefor advise and train farmers accordingly.
- That the industry is committed to the responsible development of safe and quality products, in which benefit is not at odds with the farmer’s benefit and the credibility of an entire market.
- That said product development and positioning be accompanied by empirical science, within the possibilities of each company. This should always be based on in depth research of modes of action, and provide solid proof to guarantee when, how, and for what purpose a product should be applied, and in an act of transparency, when they should not.
- That state agencies work to achieve a global and harmonized legislation that is meticulous in its details, so that any biostimulant of proven quality, safety and efficacy can access the market, allowing for democratization and advancement towards a stage of maturity and consolidation.
These actions are undoubtedly difficult to implement globally. However, they are becoming increasingly more important within companies and institutions, which are aware that the need for qualitytraining, effective communication and total transparency are currently even more necessary than the need to increase the quality of most biostimulant products.This is a fundamental step to ensure that biostimulants take on the position they deserve within the range of usual agricultural practices to provide true solutions to real problems on the field. However, the most important part: it is about to guaranteeing that biostimulants are worthy of our farmer’s trust.
This article was initially published in AgroPages '2019 Biologicals Special ' magazine. Download the PDF version of the magazine to read more articles.
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