19 September 2023, UK: In this era of evolving agricultural practices, the significance of advanced formulations in transforming biostimulants and biofertilizers cannot be overstated. Dr. Minshad A. Ansari, the visionary Founder and CEO of Bionema Limited, illuminates how these innovations are poised to reshape the landscape of biological agriculture. Through advanced formulations, farmers, growers, greenkeepers, and foresters are offered an unprecedented opportunity to replace traditional pesticides and chemical fertilizers with eco-friendly solutions that not only benefit the environment but also enhance the health and productivity of the crops they nurture and support.
Addressing the Global Imperative: Food Security
The 20th century bore witness to unparalleled population growth, primarily attributed to advancements in modern medicine and groundbreaking changes in agricultural practices. Synthetic fertilizers emerged as a cornerstone of this era’s food production, with their usage closely paralleling the surge in human population. However, the indiscriminate and protracted application of chemical fertilizers has given rise to a litany of challenges, including soil degradation, nitrogen leaching, soil compaction, diminished soil organic matter, and carbon depletion. Even more disconcerting is the runoff of applied fertilizers into water bodies and the release of potent greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, fuelling grave environmental concerns. In light of these issues and the pressing need to safeguard our planet and its finite resources, global initiatives have resoundingly called for a reduction in the global reliance on chemical fertilizers.
The question that looms large is: How can farmers continue to meet the world’s growing food demands while weaning themselves off chemical fertilizers?
The answer lies in the realm of biological solutions—specifically, biofertilizers and biostimulants.
Biofertilizers and Biostimulants: Unveiling the Distinction
Biofertilizers and biostimulants, often grouped together, serve distinct roles:
- Biofertilizers encompass living micro-organisms that, when introduced to seeds, plants, or soil, establish residence in the rhizosphere or within the plant itself. These micro-organisms stimulate growth by augmenting the supply or availability of essential nutrients to the host plant.
- Biostimulants consist of substances and/or microorganisms that catalyze natural plant processes. While they may enhance nutrient utilization, stress tolerance, or other quality traits, they do not contain nutrients per se. Instead, they trigger the plant and soil to optimize nutrient uptake and utilization.
In essence, fertilizers directly furnish nutrients to plants, whereas biostimulants harness natural processes to improve nutrient absorption. Biofertilizers predominantly comprise naturally derived microbes, whereas biostimulants encompass a variety of natural nutrients such as seaweed extracts and humic and fulvic substances, spanning all stages of plant growth. Despite these distinctions, both product categories share a common goal: to bolster and invigorate various facets of plant development.
Empirical evidence from field trials underscores the prowess of biostimulants in fostering plant resilience against abiotic stressors like heat, drought, or salinity. These biostimulant-treated plants exhibit vigorous root systems, facilitating enhanced nutrient uptake and water absorption. Notably, Bionema’s own research and development efforts culminated in the launch of seven groundbreaking biostimulants, which demonstrated the potential to reduce fertilizer usage by a remarkable 50% while conserving an impressive 93% of crop yields.
Bolstering the Efficacy of Biofertilizers
Recent meta-analyses comprising 171 peer-reviewed studies have provided compelling evidence affirming the yield-enhancing capabilities of biofertilizers. Varieties with nitrogen-fixing and phosphorus-solubilizing attributes, alongside arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi renowned for their facilitation of phosphorus uptake, emerged as potent contributors to augmented crop productivity. However, the recurrent inconsistency in biofertilizer performance has thwarted their widespread adoption by farmers. Variables contributing to this incongruity encompass differing soil conditions, strain variances, or host genotype disparities. Nonetheless, Bionema contends that another pivotal factor behind historical irregularities lies in the insufficient safeguarding of delicate microbes and natural ingredients inherent to these products. Subpar formulation or application methodologies have frequently failed to ensure the preservation and efficacy of these indispensable components.
Formulation Excellence: A Decisive Factor
The biological agriculture sector has long grappled with formulation challenges dating back to the commercialization of biological products in the 1980s. Biological products, particularly those housing microbial life, exhibit a pronounced fragility in contrast to conventional chemicals. Vulnerability to desiccation and ultraviolet light underscores their susceptibility. Mitigating these vulnerabilities necessitates an unwavering commitment to optimizing the formulation of biological products, safeguarding their viability and structural integrity throughout storage, mixing, application, and in-field deployment.
In a bid to address these challenges, Bionema has spearheaded pioneering advancements in formulation technology. The development of Incapsulex™, a revolutionary microencapsulation formulation technology, stands as a testament to their commitment. This innovative platform effectively encapsulates naturally derived microorganisms, serving as bioprotective agents while ensuring their precise and secure delivery to the target site.
Field trials conducted by Bionema, featuring biofertilizers infused with nitrogen-fixing bacteria and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, harnessed the potential of the Incapsulex technology. The results were nothing short of transformative—significantly amplified growth, elevated soil organic matter content, pH equilibrium, and marked improvements in soil conditions. These tangible outcomes translated into enhanced yields and a noteworthy reduction of synthetic fertilizer utilization by an impressive 40–50%.
A Burgeoning Responsibility
In an era marked by shifting paradigms, the clarion call for reduced chemical intervention in agriculture has grown more resonant. However, sustaining elevated crop yields and catering to the mounting global population necessitates the pursuit of sustainable alternatives. When appropriately formulated and deployed, biostimulants and biofertilizers offer not merely a sustainable alternative, but a transformative one. These eco-friendly solutions have the potential to replace chemical
counterparts, offering natural remedies that concurrently serve the interests of both the environment and the crops they nourish and fortify.
Recognition of the prospective benefits of biostimulants and biofertilizers, coupled with heightened consumer preferences for organic produce, has ignited fervent interest in these biological solutions. The biological agriculture sector is primed for explosive growth, with biofertilizers forecasted to reach a value of US$5.2 billion by 2028, and biostimulants projected to soar to $6.2 billion by 2027. This meteoric rise underscores growing apprehensions over the deleterious effects of chemical pesticides on human health, biodiversity, and the environment. As such, there is a palpable demand for natural solutions capable of elevating crop yields and enhancing plant well-being.
On a global scale, an astonishing $70 billion is allocated annually to the application of chemical pesticides—a practice fraught with perilous consequences for both human well-being and the environment. Remarkably, the very solutions we seek to cultivate and protect our crops can be found beneath our very feet. The biological products market already burgeons at a rate 3.5.
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