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Evonik develops biostimulant that allows 50% less fertilizer use, eyes 2025 launchqrcode

Sep. 21, 2022

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Sep. 21, 2022

Evonik Industries is working on a biostimulant that will allow farmers to slash their fertilizer use in half – while keeping 93% of the yields. They are preparing to launch around 2025-2027, poised to target non-leguminous crops, especially wheat and corn. This comes in the wake of rising fertilizer prices amid a general shortage.

With crops only needing half of the fertilizer to achieve similar yields, it will help farmers in the EU to reach the European Commission’s goal of reducing the use of fertilizer 20% by 2030.

Normally biostimulants are used in horticulture. However, Evonik is targeting, specifically, fertilizer reduction.

″Quantities of fertilizers used in horticulture are rather small compared to corn and wheat. Horticulture could become relevant at a later point in time, as we will look into further applications once we have launched our first product,″ Jan Wolter, head of the Farm-to-Fork area at Creavis, the business incubator of Evonik, tells FoodIngredientsFirst.

Being in development, Wolter says that it is still too early to tell what the cost of the final product will be, but explains that any money saved will depend mainly on the amount of fertilizer reduced.

Greener alternative

Biostimulants provide plants with nitrogen from the atmosphere through bacteria that penetrate plants via the leaves. They stimulate natural processes in plants and soil, increasing the uptake and assimilation of nutrients, increasing the surface area of roots and the quality of the soil.

The nitrogen they provide is already in the atmosphere, avoiding the creation of more greenhouse gasses. Therefore, making them a more environmentally friendly alternative compared to a more intense fertilizer use while allowing similar crop outputs.

In Evonik’s greenhouse trials, root growth is 31% better when using the suggested mix of 50% fertilizer and Evonik’s biostimulants, compared to just using the normal 100% fertilizer mix. However, the shoot part of the plant, the plant biomass (excluding roots), is 93% of the one of a plant treated with a common fertilizer mix.

Climate resistance boost

Evonik has found that plants with the biostimulants have ″better resistance against abiotic stress (e.g. heat, drought, salt), and the root reaches more nutrients and can collect more water as it has a bigger reach,″ explains Wolter.

The company collected a variety of microorganisms from plants in extreme habitats – in nutrient-poor, dry zones, or soil contaminated with heavy metals – and identified the nitrogen-fixing bacteria of those microorganisms through stress tests. By clearly determining the DNA of those bacterial strains, they found the potential to create biostimulants that will make plants more resistant to any climate condition.

More resistant crops will be key to weathering the unpredictable climate. Globally, farmers are facing tough times while climate-crisis mitigation methods are being innovated as the agri-food industry fights back against the rapid onset of a warmed Earth and its impact on food supplies.

Fertilizer shortage and storability

Due to the Ukraine war, there is a shortage of fertilizers and prices are rising – having doubled this year, according to UN data – because production requires natural gas as a raw material and fuel.

Reducing fertilizer use through biostimulants will be an option for companies that wish to find ways to reduce their costs in chemical products. The storability of biostimulants is, additionally, predicted to last several years, although stability tests are still pending, according to Evonik.

″The final product will be a liquid, therefore it cannot be stored in bags. We expect cans or intermediate bulk containers to be the appropriate packaging,″ concludes Wolter.


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