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Biostimulants

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SOIL HEALTH: CONCEPTS, CLAIMS & QUANTIFICATION

By | Biostimulants, Conferences and Training, Soil Acidity | No Comments

Ruth Rhodes previously worked for The South African Sugar Research Institute (SASRI) as a soil scientist and is now a private consultant, delivered a well balanced and objective presentation on the definition of soil health, highlighting some prevalent factors affecting soil health and methods of quantifying soil health. Rhodes initiated the concept of soil health by highlighting “how every soil tells a story” as illustrated below where two soils that started out identically thirty years ago ended up so different due to land use and management: The “term soil health” today is used interchangeably with the terms “soil quality” and “soil condition” and there are various definitions that are used to describe soil health: A state of a soil meeting its range of ecosystem functions as appropriate to its environment. Soil health / quality describes soils that are not only fertile but also posses adequate physical and biological properties to “sustain productivity, maintain environment quality and promote plant and animal health”- Doron 1994. “how well soil does what we want it to do” – USDA Rhodes pointed out that there are many other definitions however we should want our soils to support and  grow optimally yielding crops, “forever” without harming the environment. The soil food web may be used as the starting point in assessing soil health, however there are over forty different factors that determine soil health which can be grouped into biological factors, physical factors, chemical factors and nutritional factors. Rhodes aptly likened these groups of factors to being the pieces of a puzzle and that if on piece was missing then the puzzle is incomplete: Soil health shouldn’t be viewed in terms of biology only as it is comprised by a whole range of different factors, of the these there are only two inherent qualities that we can’t really control and aren’t affected by management easily; soil depth and texture. They are determined by the factors of soil formation such as climate, topography, vegetation, parent material and time which give soils some kind of inherent health or quality for example comparing a loamy soil to a sandy soil. A loamy soil may seen to be more healthy because it has a higher water holding capacity; or referred to as having a higher “soil capability’. Dynamic qualities affect soil quality or condition that we can manage, Rhodes proceeded to briefly highlight some of these factors and how the changing nature of soil properties determining soil health may be affected by management. Chemical and Nutritional factors Soil Acidity is a significant yield limiting factor in dryland agriculture in South Africa especially in KZN and the Eastern Cape and is starting to become a problem in irrigation areas which until recently have not been a familiar with this problem. Soil acidity initially starts off in small patches that expand if not rectified, they can often be identified as areas displaying poor growth (in severe cases not even weeds will grow); “seed vigour” and germination problems resulting from soil acidity have…

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Biofertilizers, Biostimulants & Biopesticides: Definitions, Differences & Challenges

By | Biostimulants, FERTILIZER PRODUCTS | No Comments

Stephanie Roberts, Agronomic R&D Manager for Omnia gave a very informative presentation on the significance and market potential of biostimulants, biofertilizers and biopesticides including a detailed explanation of the definitions, differences and challenges surrounding the use of these products; especially in relation to Group 3 fertilizer registration in South Africa. There is tremendous interest in this market commercially as worldwide growth of the global stimulants market is expected to reach US$ 3.2 billion within the next five years while the humanitarian challenge increases as agriculture will be expected to feed an extra 400 million mouths in the next five years. Bioproducts can help to sustainably improve crop yields by reducing crop stress and improving nutrient use efficiency. However this segment of the industry faces challenges of perception as many of these products have been described with dubious claims and a mysterious technical story leading to them being labelled as “muck and magic” in the United Kingdom and “snake oils” in the USA. Some reasons that these perceptions have arisen: Many products such as kelps and amino acids derived from fish emulsions originated from the organic farming industry which has been associated with not always using the best science available. Many of these products were developed from industry driven R&D and not from Universities, even in Universities there is mistrust relating to these products. Problems of fake products; for example where people are selling caramel colourants and labelling them as “humic”. Unfortunately the genuine products don’t always work and cannot be guaranteed to always give a proper response. A lesson from the “American Snake Oil” industry  The original snake oils were used by Chinese immigrants who built the transcontinental railroad in the USA in the 1880’s to ease muscle pain. The Americans realized the potential and used extracts from rattlesnakes when the original snake oil ran out as an alternative, soon unscrupulous businessmen were selling mineral oil as snake oil; which led to snake oil gaining the reputation as something not to be trusted. A hundred years later it was found that Chinese water snakes did indeed carry Omega 3 fatty acids which have anti-inflammatory properties. The lesson from the snake oil industry is that the problem was not related to product but rather to the fake product. As Roberts explained that the purpose of Group 3 registration is to ensure that biostimulants and biofertilizers aren’t registered as Remedies but as fertilizers and that biopesticides remain registered as Remedies. It is most important to ensure that only proven biostimulants and biofertilizers are marketed to farmers and for the industry to validate the products being sold so that the market is not destroyed by non-regulated non proven products. The definition of Biostimulants according to the current Group 3 regulations of Act 36: “A fertilizer containing natural or synthetic substance(s) or organism(s) or maintain(s) the growth or yield of plants or the physical, chemical or biological condition (fertility) of the soil; and “soil improver” shall have the same meaning“. The major challenge facing…

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THE BIOSTIMULANTS / BIOFERTILIZERS CONCEPT – A EUROPEAN PERSPECTIVE

By | Biostimulants, FERTILIZER PRODUCTS | One Comment

Barabara Novak is an agronomic engineer and consultant who participated in the European Biostimulant Industry Council (EBIC) that interfaced with the European Commission (EC) with the aim to promote the development of suitable regulatory frameworks for biostimulants and specialty fertilizers. Novak presented a paper at the FERTASA Biofertilizer Workshop held in November 2017 on the European perspective of the development of the biostimulant / biofertilizer concept and definition and its implications for product placement in EU regulatory frameworks. The use of biological products in agriculture and crop chemistry has gained considerable attention in the last ten years, and is now no longer considered as a “fad” of “fly by night” product segment and has evolved into a structural component of the crop chemicals market. They are considered as one of the most attractive investment segments in the crop chemicals industry with forecasted double digit growth for the next ten years. Novak explained that the group of biological plant nutrition products that are referred to as biofertilizers in South Africa  are referred to as biostimulants, metabolic enhancers, phytostimulators, plant elicitors, biogenic stimulators amongst other terms in other countries. The term biofertilizers used in South Africa refers to a specific group of products that are termed as biostimulants in Europe –  biofertilizers are referred to as biostimulants for the remainder of this article. The wide range of terminology and definitions used to describe these products is considered as one of the key barriers for growth of this segment of the industry and has created confusion in the market with negative implications for market development such as a lack of market information and product registries which influences  industry validation which in turn is influences end-user acceptance and creates mistrust.  Novak stressed that possibly the most important outcome is that a science based and industry accepted definition is a prerequisite for the development of a regulatory framework that can distinguish these products from existing legislative product categories. The Development of the European Biostimulant Definition Currently these is no regulatory or legally-accepted definition of biostimulants anywhere in the world including the European Union (EU). Literature reviews indicate that the term was first used in 1997 in a web journal for turf professionals where biostimulants were defined as “materials that in minute quantities promote plant growth”. The use of the words “minute quantities” distinguish biostimulants from fertilizers which also promote plant growth but in much larger quantities. In 2007 the term was first defined in scientific literature as “materials other than fertilizers, that promote plant growth”. The addition of the phrase “other than fertilizer” is significant as an early attempt to explicitly distinguish this class of compounds from traditional fertilizer products. In subsequent years the term has been used to define an even wider range of compounds and has been used as a versatile descriptor of virtually any substance beneficial to plants without being a fertilizer, Plant Protection Product (PPP) or soil improver. Clearly there was a necessity clarify the status of biostimulant products not just…

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BIOSTIMULANTS & BIOFERTILIZERS – GROUP 3 FERTILIZERS

By | Biostimulants, FERTILIZER PRODUCTS | No Comments

For centuries man used rudimentary techniques in his endeavors to fertilize the soil and make crops grow, however it was only after Justus von Liebig  established conclusively that “green plants can be nourished by mineral salts in solution and specified that there are three essential elements for plant growth Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K)” that the industrial production of chemical fertilizers developed onwards from the 1880’s. By 1888 the French had passed the first laws governing the use of fertilizers which required in particular that the manufacturer indicate the percentage of the nutrients (N, P and K) and their origin which remained in place until the late 1970’s when the rapid development of agriculture and emergence of new products especially fertilizer mixtures made it’s revision necessary. Today there are complex laws governing the manufacture of fertilizers and their use through-out the world. Agricultural research and development has proven extremely successful over the past century increasing crop production ensuring food security for an ever-growing world population through improved genetics, crop protection, the efficient use of fertilizers and advanced understanding of plant and soil chemistry and nutrition. Numerous other factors that influence and benefit plant growth have been identified and used advantageously as “biostimulants” and “biofertilizers”. The benefits of leguminous crops on the soil had been recognized for centuries however in was only in 1901 that biological nitrogen fixation was first discovered and in the 1950’s that research started to make headway. The symbiotic effects of fungi with plant roots was first studied in the 1880’s and the term mycorrhiza was introduced in 1885. The discovery of Plant Growth Substances began with Darwin’s discovery of Auxins in 1880 followed by Ethylene in 1917, Gibberellins in 1926, Cytokinins in the 1950’s and Abscisic acid in 1963. Seaweeds have historically also been used as fertilizers but use declined with the advent of chemical fertilizers. In the 1970’s the beneficial effects of the brown seaweed Ecklonia maxima (kelp) were identified and extraction methods of the cellular content developed; in 1983 the first doctoral thesis on the beneficial properties of its extracts was published. Over the past two decades there has been tremendous worldwide growth and development of the Biofertilizers, Biostimulants and Biopesticides market which is now a fast growing  and lucrative segment of the crop chemicals industry. By definition these products are classified as fertilizers and are subject to  world-wide regulation just like conventional fertilizers. The registration of these products and international law governing their use are however far more complex as in many cases involve the use of living organisms and metabolites which may have environmental implications; they are regulated by Act 36 of 1947 as Group 3 fertilizers and at least 8 other Acts of legislation in South Africa. In February 2016 the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) published their guidelines for the registration of Group 3 Fertilizers, these can be accessed on the following link: http://www.nda.agric.za/doaDev/sideMenu/ActNo36_1947/AIC/DAFF%20GROUP%203%20FERTILISER%20GUIDELINE%20Final%2011%20february%202016%20(2).pdf In November 2017 FERTASA hosted a Biofertilizer Workshop which was open to…

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