As the world’s food demand grows, agricultural food production is also on the rise. This comes with the related challenges of poor yield, drought, pests and weeds that can negatively impact both productivity and the environment.
While fertilizers and pesticides play a significant role in attempting to overcome some of these obstacles, agricultural biologicals can make a crucial contribution toward the goal of making intensive agricultural production more successful and sustainable.
Safe for the environment, biologicals make crops healthier, with improved defenses against diseases and pests, and better able to withstand abiotic stress. The crop is well-prepared for early season growth and has a good vigor, with enriched root and shoot biomass and improved nutrient uptake and use.
What is an agricultural biological?
“Agricultural biological” is a broad term for the microbes, plant extracts, beneficial insects and other naturally occurring materials that growers use to increase the health and yield of their crops. These materials have the potential to lower the environmental impact of conventional agriculture by reducing the amount of fertilizer and pesticide use.
Biologicals are derived from microorganisms, plant extracts or other organic matter and are grouped into two main categories: 1. Microbes – fungi, bacteria and viruses; 2. Biochemical – plant and insect, growth regulators, organic acids, plant extracts, minerals and pheromones. Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), Bacillus subtilis, seaweed extract, humic acid, fulvic acid, molasses, and fermentation extracts are all biologicals of significant value and have been used in the agricultural industry for quite some time.
Functioning both as natural pesticides and biostimulants, biological products can result in disease control, growth enhancement, soil health improvement, improvement of plant nutrient uptake and enhancement of crop tolerance to abiotic stresses like heat, cold and drought.
Soil microbes are known to have a significant benefit in assisting with the decomposition of organic matter and the recycling of old plant material. Some soil bacteria and fungi form synergistic relationships with plant roots and, in the process, help to metabolize and solubilize nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus and facilitate their uptake by the crops. Relatively speaking, there is still much to learn about the biochemical component of biologicals and it is easy to foresee agricultural applications of biologicals pointing in the direction of plant growth-promoting rhizobacteria that can control plant pathogens, enhance nutrient and mineral uptake, and perhaps break down synthetic substances and address different types of pathogenic resistance.
Through their application, biologicals have adapted to efficient nutrient use. In addition to helping build soil biology, they help to stimulate resiliency in places where soil organic matter has been lost following aggressive conventional farming practices. And, where resistance management needs to be kept in check, biologicals can serve as a resistance management tool in rotation with chemistry. As significant as the use of biologicals may be, though, they are not a replacement for a grower’s fertility or crop protection plans. Rather, they are to be used alongside current practices, making farming more efficient and sustainable.
OMEX Has the Solution
To learn more about how biologicals benefit agricultural production and how they can be integrated into your conventional or organic farming practices, talk to your OMEX representative. In addition to providing great information, your rep can help you create a nutrient management strategy to help you meet your yield and quality goals.
This is the first in a three-part series on Biostimulants. In our next two posts, we’ll be covering Humates and Plant Growth Regulators (PGRs).