Soil is a complex ecosystem where plant roots, microbes and other organisms bind minerals and organic matter together into a dynamic structure that regulates nutrients, water, air and other resources.
Soil health for agriculture typically refers to the soil’s ability for good agricultural productivity and environmental protection. Healthy soil provides multiple functions to facilitate crop growth and development through nutrient cycling, regulation of other living resources supply, and biocontrol of pests. Healthy soil is the foundation of a healthy plant, a precondition to support agricultural productivity and sustainability.
Soil management practices can alter its health. Agrochemical giants and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have been investing heavily in supplying products to improve the soil’s physical, chemical, and biological properties. In addition, they have announced different tools with specific functions in 2021-2022.
Specific microbes, one of the most efficient agents to solubilize soil Phosphorus
Phosphorus (P) plays a crucial role in plant growth and development. It is a structural component of many coenzymes, phospho-proteins and phospholipids, and is involved in the transfer and storage of energy for physiological activities. However, P is a major growth-limiting nutrient. Unlike nitrogen, there is no rich atmospheric source biologically available. There is abundant P in the soil, but plants take up soluble orthophosphate (H2PO4-and HPO42-), while the insoluble forms, taking up over 95% of the total P, cannot be utilized by them.
To increase plants availability, growers apply a significant amount of P fertilizers to the soil, leading to low use efficiency as they are adsorbed on the soil minerals, or get precipitated with Al3+ and Fe3+ in acidic and Ca2+ in calcareous or normal soil. This together with the rising fertilizer prices, creates the demand for fertilizer alternatives to increase the P use efficiency. In addition, certain microbes are considered one of the most efficient agents to solubilize P in the soil. Several microbial formulations have been launched these two years.
Bacteria-based ZOATIN, launched by UPL in India, solubilizes unavailable forms of phosphorous in the soil. Extensive trials have demonstrated that it improves root development, water use efficiency and crop resilience against stresses, such as drought. ZOATIN can be applied to a range of crops, including corn, rice, potato, pulses and vegetables.
In Brazil, De Sangosse launched soil conditioner SC5, which contains Pseudomonas thivervalensis strain SC5. The strain SC5 can produce gluconate, a major organic acid involved in the solubilization of mineral phosphate and other compounds such as ZnO. The bacteria also produce extracellular phytase, alkaline phosphatases and other enzymes involved in organic phosphate solubilization.
There are more products with the function of P solubilization. XiteBio Technologies Inc. has launched XiteBio Yield+ and XiteBio OptiPlus in the United States and Canada. Moreover, products formulated with Bacillus subtilis also solubilize P and improve its availability for plants.
Bacillus amyloliquefaciens act as both fertilizer and pesticide
Bacillus amyloliquefaciens (BA) are common in soil ecosystems worldwide, actively at rhizosphere, and can be found naturally on fresh produce. We are frequently exposed to these bacteria. BA are not known to produce any toxins that affect mammals or plant growth.
Acting as both a fertilizer and pesticide, BA offer multiple benefits to crop production. BA consume organic matters secreted by plant roots and produce some substances that can be utilized by plants and boost their growth. These bacteria optimize nutrient availability, including the solubilization of phosphorus and potassium, as well as produce siderophores to acquire iron. BA also secrete phytohormones and volatile organic compounds that felicitate plant cell growth and root development, which will further enhance nutrient absorption. In addition, BA compete with pathogens for nutrients and produce cyclic lipopeptide, polyketide and other substances against pathogens. They also reduce the number of nematode egg masses and inhibit the hatching of eggs, which reduces nematode damage to crops.
BA are one of the most prospective bacterial species for plant growth facilitation, and several agrochemical giants and SMEs have registered and launched related formulations over the past two years.
Serifel provided by BASF contains the BA strain MBI600. BASF received label expansion in Canada, making Serifel available for use on potatoes to control early blight (Alternaria solani), and partially control soilborne rhizoctonia stem canker or black scurf (Rhizoctonia solani) in-furrow. Serifel can also be used on a range of fruiting, leafy, root and cucurbit vegetables, in conventional or organic farming. According to BASF, as a pure spore formulation, Serifel is the most highly concentrated biological fungicide on the market, with at least 5.5 x 1010 viable spores per gram being contained in the product, being effective at low application rates.
Bayer has received registration in China for Serenade SC, which is based on the BA strain, QST713. The product was registered in the country for the first time in 2019 as a biofertilizer. Its extended registration was approved for application to more crops in 2021, followed by its registration as a biofungicide later in the year, making the strain QST713, a product that can be used as both a bacterial fertilizer and pesticide in China. Bayer plans to use it for a wider scope of applications, covering the control of potato scab and other pathogens.
Koppert has launched the biological nematicide, Veraneio (BA UMAF6614 Universidad de Málaga), in Paraguay. The product is used as a seed treatment to control Pratylenchus brachyurus, Meloidogyne incognita and Meloidogyne javanica. Veraneio has shown good results in controlling nematodes in soybean. A study carried out in 46 experimental fields during the 2020/21 harvest in Brazil showed that Veraneio increased soybean productivity by up to 2.4 bags/ha when applied with the biofungicide and bionematicide, Trichodermil (Trichoderma harzianum).
BA can be applied with other microorganisms for soil health, and some companies have launched co-formulated products mixed with BA and other beneficial microbes. Protege, launched by ADAMA in Brazil, is based on BA, Bacillus thuringiensis and Bacillus velezensis, and is used as fungicide and nematicide mainly for soybean and sugarcane crops. NutriWise, launched by Performance Nutrition, contains BA, Bacillus megaterium, Bacillus subtilis, Trichoderma harzianum and Saccharomyces cerevisiae, as well as humic acids, iron and zinc, enabling it to improve nutrient use efficiency, soil fertility and soil environment for beneficial microbes.
Another product based on BA is biofungicide Bactel, launched by Dillon Biotecnologia in Brazil.
Digital technologies transform the decision-making capabilities of growers
The development of mobile technologies, remote sensing and computing technologies will increase growers’ access to the information about their soils and plants, helping them adjust farming practices in a timely manner.
Syngenta unveiled Interra Scan, one of the world’s highest-resolution soil mapping services, at Fields of Innovation 2022. The service provides precision soil analysis with high-resolution soil mapping of up to 27 layers of data on soil health. Growers can access high-resolution maps by computers via the Interra Scan platform. The system can reveal all common nutrient properties, including pH, soil texture, organic matter, carbon, cation exchange capacity, elevation and plant water availability, totaling over 800 data reference points per hectare. All the information helps growers optimize crop nutrition and soil health. Compared to other soil scanning tools, it enables a much-wider operating window for soil scans. Moreover, growers have flexibility when using the tool as it is not affected by soil moisture, compaction, crop cover or cultivation conditions. This service will be initially available to continental and eastern European growers.
In addition, Syngenta has launched the world’s first commercial digital tool to detect plant-parasitic nematodes in soybean crops by analyzing photographs taken from satellites. The tool utilizes a proprietary algorithm to analyze images of fields obtained by satellites, in order to identify areas of high infestations of harmful nematodes in crops, as well as estimate potential losses caused by them. Benefiting from this, growers can quickly optimize their use of inputs to minimum yield loss. Syngenta will initially provide this service in Brazil, the world's largest soybeans producer, and there is also a great potential to release this solution in other countries.
Futureco Bioscience launched Genomaat, an innovative service that provides soil microbiome data, analysis and tailor-made microbial solutions to global markets. Genomaat utilizes high throughput technology to break down the soil biodiversity complexity into meaningful bio-functional parameters, uncovering the relationship between soil health and overall field performance. After a functional diagnosis, Genomaat will offer microbial solutions based on the company’s unique collection of microorganisms or the native flora of an analyzed plot, followed by an evaluation of improved functionality. It optimizes microenvironmental balance and facilitates the establishment and persistence of a proactive microbiota, leading to sustainable yield increases.
Table 1. Companies below have registered/launched formulations for soil health in 2021 and 2022
|UPL||ZOATIN||Bacteria||Solubilizing unavailable forms of phosphorous in the soil||India |
|Copio||Probiotics ||Increasing soil microflora, improving soil texture and structure||India |
|OHM||Ascophyllum nodosum extract||Optimizing nutrient use efficiency||Canada|
|BASF||Serifel ||Bacillus amyloliquefaciens stain MBI600||Suppressing early blight (Alternaria solani) in potatoes, partially suppressing soilborne rhizoctonia stem canker or black scurf (Rhizoctonia solani) in-furrow||Canada|
|ADAMA ||Protege||Bacillus thuringiensis, Bacillus velezensis, Bacillus amyloliquefaciens||Control of nematodes and pathogens||Brazil |
|Bayer||Ambition||Amino acids, fulvic acid, trace elements||Providing nutrients and promoting plant growth||China|
|Bayer||Serenade SC||Bacillus amyloliquefaciens strain QST713||Acting as biofertilizer||China|
|FMC||Petra Biosolution||Nitrogen and phosphorus loaded with organic matter||Mobilizing phosphorus in the soil, facilitating nutrient uptake, improving soil texture and enhancing soil fertility||India|
|Koppert ||Veraneio ||Bacillus amyloliquefaciens UMAF6614 (Universidad de Málaga)|
Control of root lesion nematodes (Pratylenchus brachyurus) and galls (Meloidogyne incognita
and Meloidogyne javanica)
|De Sangosse||SC5||Pseudomonas thivervalensis SC5||Promoting enzymatic activities and increasing the availability of several essential nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, iron, sulfur and zinc||Brazil |
Humic acids, Fe, Zn, Bacillus amyloliquefaciens, Bacillus megaterium, Bacillus subtilis, Trichoderma harzianum,
|Improving nutrient use efficiency, soil fertility and improving soil environment for beneficial microbes etc.||USA|
|Biodel Ag, Inc.||Sequester||Cyanobacteria (Cyanoblend)||Sequester effectively reduces salinity, nitrogen requirements, improves water use efficiency, and sequesters atmospheric carbon. It is a soil reclamation product.||USA|
|Van Iperen International||4-Vita ||Potassium oxide, flavonoids, organic acids, organic matter etc.||Improving the water balance in the plant under abiotic stresses||Europe |
|4-Good||Potassium oxide, flavonoids, organic acids, organic matter etc.||Improving water balance in the plant, better utilization of phosphorus already present in the soil||Europe |
|4-Terra||Potassium oxide, heterosides, organic acids, organic matter etc.||Better utilization of phosphorus already present in the soil, improving microbial activity in soil||Europe |
|Rotam Agrochemicals Europe||Yoduo||Nitrogen, Zinc, Sulfur, Boron||Enhancing soil fertility, improving flowering and fruit setting||Europe|
|Starstreak||Humic and fulvic extracts||Mainly assisting the development the roots||Europe|
|Farmers Business Network||Inhabit Boost||Micronized carbon||Improving fertilizer efficiency, soil quality and nutrient transport||USA|
|Catalyst ADV||Prebiotics||Improving the native soil microbiome to make nutrients more available to the plant||USA|
|Inject-N ADV||Azospirillum brasilense||Fixing atmospheric nitrogen||USA|
|Inhabit P||Phosphorus complexed with micronized carbon||Improving availability and reducing tie up for more efficient delivery at low use rates||USA|
|A&L Biological||AL-Bio 7||Bacteria||Improving soil health, stimulating plant and root growth, improving stress resistance and increasing crop yield||Canada |
|Lavie Bio||result||Microbe||Improving the uptake and assimilation of nutrients||USA|
|HELLO NATURE||KEYLAN||Vegetal peptides||Preventing and curing nutrient deficiency||Europe|
|Tradecorp ||Quikon||L-α amino acids, vitamins, sugars and traces of other natural compounds||Benefitial to fruit swell and development in horticultural crops and tree fruit, as well as pre-flowering in broadacre legume crops||India |
|Seipasa ||Riguer Flow||Calcium oxide||Improving soil structure and enhancing essential nutrient assimilation||Spain|
|Radisei ||Bacillus subtilis||Unlocking essential micro and macronutrients, bringing about greater development of the root system||Spain|
|XiteBio Technologies Inc.||XiteBio Yield+||Bacillus firmus strain XSB 375||Solubilizing phosphate||Canada, USA|
|Solubilizing phosphate and nitrogen fixation||Canada, USA|
|Mycorrhizal Applications||MycoApply EndoThrive|
G. mosseae, G. etunicatum,
|Acting as a living extension of the roots||USA|
|FBSciences||CarbonBoost||Microbe||Maximizing carbon sequestration, increasing soil carbon||USA|
|FBS Defense 500||Complex polymeric polyhydroxy acids||Control of pests, increasing chlorophyll production etc.||USA|
|Meristem Crop Performance||Excavator ||Bacteria and amino acids||Speeding residue decay and releaseing nutrients faster||USA|
|Symborg ||Qlimax||Prebiotic||Multiplying the concentration of microbial flora in the soil||Spain|
|Berso Industrial Resid HC||Glomus iranicum var. tenuihypharum||Enhancing root growth, improving water use efficiency and nutrient absorption, and strengthening the plant’s physiological activity||Spain|
|Berso T-78 Industrial||Trichoderma harzianum T-78||Stimulating seed germination and plant growth, increasing abiotic stress tolerance and yield||Spain|
|Rizobacter||Signum ||Bradyrhizobium||Favoring positive interaction with other beneficial soil microorganisms, activatings microbial and plant physiology etc.||Brazil |
|Rizoderma||Trichoderma Harzianum||Control of seed and soilborne diseases||Brazil |
|Eastman Chemical Company||Cedroz ||Terpene ||Control of root knot nematodes||Italy, Greece, Spain|
|Tropical Agro System India Pvt. Ltd.||Tag Carb-N||Protein, primary and secondary nutrients and micronutrients||Increasing the number of micro-organisms found in the root zone of plants||India |
|Dillon Biotecnologia ||Bactel||Bacillus amyloliquefaciens||Control of soil deseases||Brazil |
|HELM Argentina ||Innobio Protergium Terra|
Bacillus velezensis T2,
Trichoderma harzianum TH10
|Facilitating the solubilization and absorption of nutrients, control of soil and seed pathogenic fungi||Argentina|
|Spraytec ||TopSeed||Trichoderma harzianum||Control of pathogens, providing nutrients||Argentina|
|Agbiome ||Theia||Bacillus subtilis strain AFS032321||Control of soilborne diseases etc.||USA|
|Idai Nature America||Clean Soil||Tagetes erecta extract||Control of nematodes||Mexico|
|Control of pathogenic fungi in the soil||Portugal|
This article was initially published in AgroPages magazine 2022 Market Insight.