Bacillus amyloliquefaciens are considered as one of the most prospective bacterial species for plant growth facilitation. To get more insights about formulations based on these microbes, we interviewed with Liliana Vallejo, Global Strategic Marketing Senior Manager for BioFungicides at BASF. She talked about their benefits to crops and market potential, and gave advices on their application.
Like some of other Bacillus species applied in agriculture, Bacillus amyloliquefaciens (BA) can act as both a pesticide and fertilizer. But are there any special characteristics of BA in terms of their benefits to plant growth?
It is true that agricultural products based on BA can support farmers and protect a wide range of crops against a broad spectrum of diseases. For example, BASF’s biological fungicide Serifel® contains spores of the BA strain MBI600 and targets major plant pathogens such as Botrytis, Sclerotinia and Alternaria in different regions of the world. Additionally, biological seed treatments like BASF’s Integral® and Integral® Pro are solo formulations that utilize the strain MBI600, which colonizes the growing plant’s root system and suppresses disease organisms such as Fusarium, Rhizctonia or Pythium to help prevent disease brought on by those organisms. Integral and Integral Pro have also shown to increase root nodulation when combined with a rhizobium product like BASF’s Vault® or Vault® IP Plus.
In addition, BA act as soil bacteria which develop a symbiotic relationship with the plant roots thus protecting it from soil pathogens too. A healthy soil is essential: it stores water more efficiently, sequesters more carbon and provides more nutrients and biodiversity to the plants, which will ultimately play in favor of the plant growth.
BA are considered as one of the most prospective bacterial species for plant growth facilitation. What do you think about the market potential of BA-based formulations?
The future of BA-based formulations and microbials in general looks promising, largely due to consumer demand for fewer residues and regulatory pressure to use less chemical crop protection products. Today, microbials are already broadly applied in fruits, vegetables, and ornamentals. But we expect a much higher potential when applied into row crops, not only as seed treatment, but as soil and foliar applications.
Generally, we believe that biological crop protection products, such as the ones included in BASF’s BioSolutions portfolio, can complement conventional treatments within smart Integrated Pest Management (IPM) programs. There is space for both technologies, conventional and biological, to co-exist and benefit from that. A good balance of using both will enable farmers to produce enough healthy food to feed a growing population while addressing societal expectations and consumer needs.
What limits their wide application in agriculture?
Indeed, biological products still have some hurdles to overcome, including high development costs and unclear regulatory requirements. Furthermore, a still lower efficacy compared to conventional crop protection products and a limited shelf life – not to forget microbials contain living organisms – limit their widespread use in agriculture.
With Serifel, Integral and other products containing MBI600, BASF has managed to overcome some of these hurdles, thanks to our strong network of experts in formulations and other fields, and we are constantly working to improve our biological crop protection products. We are developing novel processes, delivery mechanisms and formulation approaches, which has demonstrably led to significant improvements in shelf-life and other formulation properties.
What technologies has BASF developed to make your BA-based product(s) more cost-effective?
At BASF Agricultural Solutions, we continuously improve our production processes to offer our customers best-in-class products. BASF has strict production and quality control specifications to ensure that our products reach customer hands with their full potential. For example, from seed treatment formulation and application to storage and handling improvements we continue to innovate and bring customers needed solutions. This goes for our full line of MBI600 containing products. Also, we make sure that every batch of Serifel has a consistent and maximum amount of BA MBI600 spores which is responsible for performance proving a quality product. Additionally, Serifel has a stable spore formulation which means no special handling or storage requirements by distributors or farmers.
BASF has also already built significant biology experience and expertise on application of Serifel in protected environments and open fields. This built expertise enables distributors, advisors, and farmers to optimize the application of Serifel on the specific crops while minimizing residues. By replacing some chemical products by Serifel within spray programmes at the right timing, farmers can maintain efficacy while decreasing the total number of detectable active ingredients or reduce the value of these at harvest. This resumes on more cost-effective technology for farmers securing a safe, well residue-managed and profitable yield.
To provide improved efficacy of pest control, it is advised to combine the use of BA with other microorganisms. What is your view on this? What microbes would you suggest to utilize together with BA?
It always depends on the conditions on the field and the local regulations whether it is advised to combine BA with other microbes. Farmer’s personal preferences also play a role here. For our seed treatment products, MBI600 is compatible with a wide range of our rhizobium inoculants as well as many of our chemistry seed treatments. We encourage farmers to contact their local field representative for more details on compatibility options and packages.
Generally, we recommend using smart Integrated Pest Management programs of both conventional and biological technologies for best results. A good balance between the two will help farmers to produce enough healthy food to feed a growing population while addressing societal expectations and consumer needs.