A Bright Future for Biostimulants

Editor’s note: This story first appeared in AgriBusiness Global’s January/February print magazine. We now also distribute the magazine digitally for added circulation and convenience. Preview the digital edition here.

The Biological Products Industry Alliance (BPIA) is a not-for-profit trade association dedicated to fostering the use of biological technologies, including biopesticides and biostimulants. Biological products are reduced-risk products based on biological or naturally derived chemistry.

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BPIA is a rapidly growing association with more than 130 member companies, ranging from small, innovative sole proprietors to large, international companies. In 2017 BPIA decided to include biostimulants as part of its mission because several member companies and potential member companies asked BPIA to promote biostimulants in the same way BPIA promotes biopesticides. It was a logical decision for the association to want to embrace the new input category of biostimulants so that BPIA can now speak for the entire biological products industry.

BPIA member and market research company, DunhamTrimmer, estimates the value of the global biostimulant market in excess of U.S. $2.2 billion today and projects the market to surpass $5 billion by 2025. When combined with the global biocontrol market, the total combined value of the biological crop input market is expected to exceed $8 billion in 2020 and $16 billion by 2025. The consolidated annual growth rate of the biostimulant sector is estimated at 13%.

This is more than triple the growth rate of the crop protection market in 2017. The growth is driven by a global need to continue to increase crop production using sustainable practices, using a reduced quantity and lower risk inputs. Consumer demands for sustainable production practices, combined with a desire to have a wide variety of fruits and vegetables available year-round, have forced growers to seek and adopt new practices to boost crop efficiency. Biostimulants play a key role in these changes to production practices by improving crop resistance to abiotic stress and therefore allowing plants to make more efficient use of inputs under adverse growing conditions.

Europe is the largest region for biostimulant sales today, with more than $1 billion in revenue, accounting for more than one third of the global market. North America and Asia Pacific follow, with each representing more than 20% of the market. The relative rankings are not projected to change between now and 2025, but Latin America will grow dramatically faster than other regions and is projected to close the current gap in sales with other regions. By 2025 all four regions are predicted to have biostimulant sales in excess of $1 billion.

In contrast to biocontrol, the use of biostimulants is more balanced between row crops and horticultural (fruit and vegetable) crops. Row crops have shown the fastest growth, in particular in seed treatment uses. By 2025 biostimulant sales in both row crops and horticultural crops are projected to exceed $2 billion each.

BPIA along with the rest of the biostimulant industry has sought guidance from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on claims to distinguish between biostimulants and plant growth regulators. In November 2018 EPA sent a draft guidance document titled “Guidance for Plant Biostimulant Products: Label Claims Excluded or Regulated under FIFRA as Plant Regulator Claims” to the U.S. Office of Management and Budget.

BPIA has worked with the U.S. Congress in an effort to establish biostimulants as a unique category of agricultural input by defining these products as “a substance or micro-organism that, when applied to seeds, plants, or the rhizosphere, stimulates natural processes to enhance or benefit nutrient uptake, nutrient efficiency, tolerance to abiotic stress, or crop quality and yield.” BPIA has also led the biostimulant industry in requesting that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) conduct a study to determine an appropriate means to regulate biostimulants. These efforts started to come to fruition in the Farm Bill.

BPIA’s ultimate goals are to create greater clarity for bringing biostimulant products to market, greater credibility of biostimulant products efficacy and safety, and uniformity in labeling biostimulant products.