“We’re seeing significant growth in people using specifically plant growth regulators, or what we call plant hormones, and that’s primarily because people are understanding that we’re not getting maximum yield out of a plant using the traditional approach,” says Dr. Ritesh Sheth, Chief Chemist at Stoller Enterprises.
With crop prices being at a fairly low period, he says, “everyone needs to get an edge on their competitor. You’re going to have to do something different than you normally do, otherwise you are not going to get ROI to be able to grow your farm. So that’s what we’re doing, providing the technology to do that. People are starting to learn more and starting to increase usage of these products. It’s all a matter of education.”
Young and older, experienced farmers alike are seeing the difference that biostimulants and particularly PGRs can make in broad acre crops. “Some people say we should only reach out to younger farmers, because younger farmers are trying to grasp new information and look at the web,” Sheth says. At the company’s event at Commodity Classic, it staged millennials versus the older experienced generation of farmers (Learning Center: “Break Thru Yield Barriers: Production Practices for High-Yield Acres Nationwide.”)
“The view is, ‘Oh, the millennials always look for the newest, best thing, but the older, experienced generation does not.’ And I think that’s a false view of things. I think that the older, experienced generation also wants to, but they have experience that drives why they make their current decisions. The younger generation wants to show their fathers and grandfathers and uncles how to do something different. When we teach the younger generation, that information also goes to older generation as well and they start learning,” Sheth explains.
“Some of the top growers in soybeans and corn have been using our technology – these are some of the older experienced farmers, and they see value. It’s a matter of teaching.”
And the question of PGRs versus biostimulants? Sheth describes PRGs as guaranteed to work, because they contain hormones actually found in the plant. While more expensive than biostimulants, they deliver consistent results as opposed to something that might be hit or miss.
Stoller is now in the process of getting its biostimulant and PGR products approved by EPA for use with the new 2,4-D- and dicamba-resistant technologies hitting the market. Stoller is aiming for full approval this season but if not, they should get it by next season.
“We have to make sure our products are compatible,” Sheth says. Testing is extensive. For compatibility with systems like Enlist and Xtend, of course, it needed to ensure that the products did not change drift patterns or create larger droplet sizes.
It’s a misconception that all biostimulants are good to go with most any synthetic product. In fact, some “harsher” chemicals can cause death of microbials in biologicals. Humics and fulvics, for example, are not always compatible as they might be acidic or might not chelate and cause precipitation in the spray tanks, as many of the synthetic herbicides act as chelating agents themselves.
Over the life of a plant, a variety of stresses cause hormonal imbalances that can impact yield. Stoller offers a trio of product packages for those different phases of a plant’s life: Start, Grow, and Finish.
The Start grow program, which is aimed at the seed germination and initial growth phase, includes two products that provide hormonal balance and stress mitigation. One is Bio-Forge ST (seed treatment), which is a signaling molecule that suppresses ethylene – a hormone released by the plant in response to stress, much like adrenaline produced by humans to push us through the fight-or-flight response — thus helping the plant to “calm down,” so that the plant is no longer behaving as if in survival mode, Sheth explains.
The company’s Stimulate Yield Enhancer also contains signaling molecules. An EPA-approved plant growth regulator, it has hormones actually found in the plant, and with the right application timing, realigns the hormonal imbalance, Sheth says. It can be applied as a seed treatment, in-furrow with a starter fertilizer and as a foliar spray with herbicides and fungicides. It is tank-mix compatible with most plant protection products.
Stoller’s package for the next phase, aptly called Grow, consists of Bio-Forge and X-Tra Power. X-Tra Power provides nutrients that are specifically chelated. A plant typically faces “competitors” like glyphosate, 2,4-D or dicamba, which also have chelating abilities that can stop nutrients from getting to the plant. Many growers choose to use EDTA products, Sheth says, but those can pick up heavy metals that might be detrimental to the plant.
“Our technology with X-Tra Power brings micronutrients the plant needs, and components of the technology can be used by the plant itself to mitigate stress, so it is a full package,” he says.
Stoller’s Finish package, geared for bumping up yield at the end, encompasses a biostimulant/PGR, X-Cyte, and a nutrient package, Sugar Mover. Sugar Mover redirects the flow of sugars in plants from the leaves to the fruiting parts of plants and is used in crops such as soybeans, corn, wheat, and sorghum. Able to be sprayed alone or applied with most fungicides, X-Cyte delivers cytokinin – a key plant hormone to up-regulate genes associated with sugar transport and increasing sugars in the reproductive part of the plant. It means increased fertility, denser grain for higher test weight, and reduced grain/fruit abortion.
Stoller has developed its biostimulant and PGR technologies to work for row crop farmers, and in step with their normal application timings. “The good thing about Stoller technology is it can be used on any crop … We are trying to make sure we work with the normal practice of farmers. The reason Start, Grow, and Finish are specific is that most farmers do some type of seed treatment at the start, then always do an herbicide application during the grow stage, and finish with application of fungicides.”