How Biostimulants Contribute to a Sustainable Future
Biostimulants are an environmentally conscious alternative and have applications both in developing rustic or agricultural lands, such as commercial farms, and on smaller-scale gardens or allotments.
- By Richard Salvage
- Dec 09, 2020
When it comes to food production, the public are increasingly looking to farmers and growers to produce more food using less agrichemicals. Some European countries, such as Holland, are being mandated by their governments to cut their use of chemicals in food production by 50%.
Farming and food production are an essential part of our economy and general consumption. In terms of agricultural productivity, the economic contribution of farming and food production remains healthy and growing, according to ongoing governmental reports. Outside of economic influence, small or larger scale agriculture—from family run farms to commercial operations—have wider effects on our lifestyles.
However, in a bid to yield productive harvests, agricultural practices can have negative side-effects on the environment. The use of fertilisers, pesticides and other synthetic, non-natural and chemical-based products can be incredibly destructive in terms of the biodiversity of an area. Whether on a large-scale farm or your own garden, the unintentional (or indeed intentional) use of synthetic, chemical-based gardening solutions can damage the environment as much as your own land. Synthetics contribute to the urgent problem of nitrogen pollution and add chemicals into the food system that may be detrimental to human health.
Every crop or plant such as wheat, corn or barley has a theoretical potential yield built into its genetic makeup. This theoretical potential has never been achieved, but we know it can be strived for.
Over the decades, farmers have successfully increased yield to meet the food supply demand to feed large parts of the world. Since the second world war and up to the 1970s, most of the gain in yield has come from plant protection products (PPP), which include fungicides and insecticides. Since the 70s, the current yields have come from improved nutrition, increased use of fertilisers and better breeding of different crop varieties. The next major challenge for farmers and growers will come from abiotic stresses, which arise from drought, heat, inundations, salt and too much UV radiation. Overall, these are stresses due to weather changes and possibly climate change.
With the push to reduce the use of harmful chemicals, the agricultural and horticultural sectors must look to new technology and better researched biostimulants to help plants and crops overcome these potential threats.
Accessing innovative modern technology can certainly be helpful, especially when looking at promising opportunities outside of agriculture, such as the upcoming bio-based industry. On the periphery of agriculture, emerging environmentally friendly alternatives such as natural plant biostimulants are growing in popularity. With careful planning and selective solutions, using biostimulants could help improve productivity in a natural way for a more sustainable future.
Natural Farming and Gardening
There is an increasing desire for a more sustainable approach to farming, gardening and growing. ‘Natural’ is more often a buzzword, but it quite simply references a way of gardening and farming that does not spoil the natural setting in pursuit of quicker productivity ratios. Rather than degrading natural settings like gardens, allotments, or farmland, natural methods can help avoid common mistakes like water pollution, soil erosion or loss of biodiversity in an area.
We need to start with a clear understanding. Some argue that the best way to ensure land is productive is by observing the local ecosystems—from the richness of soil, to the regular native species. Those embracing alternatives endeavour to aid nature rather than oppose it. Chemical-based solutions, though potentially fast-acting agents, are disruptive to the long-term health and wellbeing of the land, and the results are almost always ultimately less favourable.
When you are familiar with the natural biodiversity of land, you are better able to nurture it and shape its productivity around your goals.
Biostimulants: A Healthy Alternative
Biostimulants are developing as an effective and meaningful alternative to these agrichemicals because they are often made from naturally occurring compounds and are used more measuredly, or in smaller quantities. They are an environmentally conscious alternative and have applications both in developing rustic or agricultural lands, such as commercial farms, and on smaller-scale gardens or allotments.
Biostimulants have been known to:
• Improve the efficiency of the plant’s metabolism, which results in more produce
• Increase a plant’s natural tolerance to stressors like pests and disease
• Aid faster recovery from stressful events, such as bad weather
Other known benefits include water efficiency, reduced pollution, better soil quality for growing produce and healthier production.
Many commercial farmers have long been seeking alternative inputs and treatments, where agriculture practices have advanced in the last decade to become not only more sustainable, but climate-wise too. Yet, these practices are not quietly kept to only commercial operations. Nowadays, the ‘spill’ of biostimulants has started to influence the cultivation of private gardens and other smaller operations.
In everyday applications, biostimulants can achieve anything from greener lawns to healthier harvests, which promote sustainable lifestyles rather than passive, consumptive ones.
Toward A Sustainable Future
Withstanding destructive habits such as overconsumption or using chemicals to fertilise land is no mean feat. In fact, this riddle of sustainability has inspired a bevy of research. Many cite biostimulants as innovative technology—in some ways, they can help arrest the damage from years of unsustainable agricultural practices. Ultimately, sustainability and agricultural practices have no immediate, quick resolve.
Alternatives are, however, driving the right kinds of changes that could steer both commercial and private agriculture towards a cleaner and more sustainable future. With new legislation imposing stricter limitations on how the environment is used and creating further urgency with deadlines, the role of sustainability in changing the UK has much left to teach us.