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Stephanie Roberts

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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