Do you know everything about biostimulants? Do you know makes them different from fertilisers? Biostimulants and plant protection products can contain the same substances. However, they have different functions.
In the words of Professor Patrick du Jardin from the University of Liège Gembloux: “Biostimulants are defined by what they do, not by what they are.” Biostimulants can improve agricultural profitability and competitiveness by contributing to an adequate supply of healthy and affordable food and by promoting a more sustainable agriculture. As pointed out in the document published by the European Biostimulants Industry Council (EBIC), “Failing to consider the differences between biostimulants and plant protection products could seriously impede innovation and prevent companies from bringing new products and technologies to the market.”
Characteristics of agricultural biostimulants
Here is a list of everything you should know about biostimulants, according to EBIC:
- Biostimulants are made from many substances and active ingredients. Their function is determined by a number of factors, which include the combination and concentration of their components as well as how, where and on what crops they are applied. As highlighted by EBIC, “It is therefore vital that the function determines the regulatory pathway and not an isolated ingredient.”
- Many technologies are involved in the development of biostimulants. The word biostimulant is a generic term to designate a range of technologies. Some biostimulants may therefore contain only one of these technologies, while others are a combination of several of them.
- They are composed of microorganisms and organic substances. Most biostimulants are composed of organic substances and they usually contain relatively common substances, such as algae or lemon, which is why their formulations can be difficult to patent.
- They play a key role in plant health and the optimisation of agricultural production. Biostimulants boost overall plant health and vigour.
What is the difference between biostimulants and fertilisers?
To answer the question posed at the beginning of this article, the role of biostimulants is similar to that of fertilisers, although some differences can be established. According to EBIC, fertilisers are produced in large amounts and provide plants with basic mineral nutrients, while biostimulants are usually applied at lower doses (only a few litres or kilograms per hectare) and their application contributes to improving crop quality and yield, as well as the plant’s tolerance to abiotic stress.
The following quote by EBIC may be used as a conclusion: “[Biostimulants] play the same role for plants that vitamins and dietary supplements play for humans.”
If you would like to know more about the role of biostimulants in agriculture, read our interview of José Ignacio Castillo, Director of Lida Plant Research’s R&D Department.