Plant Health Products Come of Age
The support traditional crop protection companies have thrown their support and money behind plant health leading them and their smaller, specialty counterparts to develop new tools for growers.
“As more time and money goes into those topics, people will recognize the interactions are incredibly complex and there are ways that you can assist the plant in ways that were not previously understood at all or very little,” says David Beaudreau, executive director of the Biostimulant Coalition and Senior Vice President, D.C. Legislative and Regulatory Services. “In a similar way it will help plants resist the stresses or grow more efficiently or be healthier in general. As the space evolves the science will show the long-term benefit for agriculture to focus in this way.”
Many companies are already investing heavily in research and testing to show their products are safe and effective. FCI spoke with several companies about the products they’ve recently launched and the ones growers can expect in the next few years.
“Everyone is looking at new and unique opportunities to increase the plants ability to yield,” says says Adam Burnhams, joint COO, SipcamAdvan. “If you compare the loss of yield from fungal infection, insecticides, and herbicides, abiotic stress still has the biggest negative impact on yield. “It’s all about enabling the plant to optimize its nutrients and helping it through periods of abiotic stress.”
SipcamAdvan, part of the Sipcam Oxon Group located in Pero, Italy, provides both traditional and biological solutions for customers. Much of the company’s research on biostimulants is done at the European headquarters before it is shared around the world. The company launched two new products in 2015 for the plant health market.
“We have a long history with biostimulants and specialty fertilizers in Europe and have a fairly significant catalog of 20 to 30 different products in Europe, especially in Spain and Italy where we have a lot of expertise,” Burnhams says. “We just launched two new biostimulates in the U.S. market, Baccarat and Potente.”
Baccarat is a new generation soil booster and plant bioactivator designed to help a wide range of crops including sugar beets and potatoes. The second biostimulant launched this year, Potente, is entirely from vegetable sources. It is a natural nutrient with amino acids obtained from fermenting vegetable protein and carbohydrates and can be used on citrus, stone fruits, leaf vegetables, fruit vegetables, beans, peas, and cotton.
The company also sells a biopeticide/biorational called Contans, but that, primarily, is an anti-fungal product. It is a fungicide that happens to be a biologically active organism. Contans is a soil-applied treatment for white mold on soybeans that contains the active ingredient Coniothyrium minitans.
“It’s very important to know the physiology of the plant or the problem it is facing to use the product in the right way,” Burnhams says. “We have to spend lots of time to do this training with the growers.”
Just launching products isn’t enough. Growers won’t make the investment in those products unless their reasonably assured of getting a return.
“A feature we are bring to market is the quality of our formulation,” says Giovanni Mattaini, SipcamAdvan’s product and regulatory manager. “Most of the snake oil products are not compatible with pesticide. Our formulations are extremely refined and extremely good in combination with other products.”
Concern about the quality and efficacy of plant health products might once have been a major concern for growers, but companies have invested heavily in testing their products.
“We conduct efficacy trials on Brandt Research farms and with universities, independent consultants, growers and dealers, says Dr. Julian Smith, Director of Discovery and Innovation, Brandt. “We typically field test our products two to three years before they’re commercially available. During this time we evaluate quality and yield response and other growth characteristics such as shelf life, size uniformity, brix, and firmness.”
Koppert Biological Systems also places a lot of emphasis on its products efficacy.
“The products of Koppert Biological Systems undergo extensive testing under field conditions before we will introduce them to the market,” the company says. “This is important, because laboratory tests do not represent all the conditions correctly which have an influence on the efficacy of a product in the field. In order to confidently present our product claims, we first need to see the efficacy in the field.”
According to Koppert, rhizobia-based products with nitrogen-fixing bacteria are the most popular products on the market. According to Brandt, the most popular products are high performance foliar nutrients designed for compatibility with a wide range of tank mix partners.
Just like crop protection products, the stresses that impact crops vary from country to country and even region to region.
In the coming years Koppert says it will focus on improving current products to offer tailor-made solutions for customers in areas with different climatic conditions. The current trend goes towards crop-, soil- and climate-specific products that help the grower reach yield potential.
In 2010, Brandt introduced its Brandt Smart System high performance foliar nutrients, which are designed for tank mixing with for post-emergent herbicides. The company continues to update those products. Brandt Smart Quatro is the newest formulation in the Smart System product line and was designed for compatibility with the new seed traits coming onto the market.
“We’ll continue to develop advanced micronutrient formulations,” Smith says. “We’re also rolling out protective phosphate and nitrogen efficiency products to provide customers with a comprehensive plant health solutions.”
In addition, Brandt has several products in the pipeline including: plant growth regulators, an advanced foliar micronutrient delivery systems, and a new generation of humic acids. •