Regulators, Users, Industry to Benefit From Better Definitions

It seems like every article discussing micronutrients and biostimulants begins with a statement expressing how plant health is the fastest-growing segment of the crop protection industry. And while that notion is true, it does not mean this segment is free from concern.

Dave Lanciault
Dave Lanciault, Agricen Sciences

That duality is captured by a thought from Johnny McRight, owner of DeltAg: “(Micronutrient and biostimulant) companies and products are coming out of the woodwork and with very little scrutiny over them.”
That lack of scrutiny could change with the expectation of a U.S. regulatory framework, which could create challenges for manufacturers and formulators looking to bring new products to market.
In an article last month we explored the rapid growth of the plant health market. This month we look at those issues that might slow that growth.
In the United States there is no definition about how these products are categorized (although there is hope that will change later this year). Each state has the right and ability to define and regulate these products as they see fit.

“Regulatory uncertainty may complicate the path to market for some of the technologies, as promising products have to navigate a complex environment between the states and EPA,” says David Lanciault, President & CEO of Agricen Sciences. “Education and outreach efforts by industry must increase in order to help gain acceptance of the technologies by growers, associations, consultants, legislators (who can help with incentives for the use of sustainable technologies), sustainability and other affiliated groups, the general public and other stakeholders.”
The problem extends well outside the U.S.
“Regulatory guidelines as well as proof or efficacy requirements along with actual product registration issues (are a concern),” McRight says. “Biostimulants are neither fertilizer nor pesticides — so where should they be registered? With nutrient content, they can be registered domestically in each individual state, even though guidelines vary slightly from state to state. Internationally, some countries have very stringent registration guidelines, while others have no rules at all.”
A lack of understanding by legislators is certainly one issue the industry is working to overcome. Organizations like the non-profit Biostimulant Coalition work to proactively address regulatory and legislative issues. The Biostimulant Coalition also serves as a resource for regulatory bodies. It develops a set of standards for biostimulant products such as fertilizers, biological or naturally-derived additives.
Many stakeholders across the industry have problems understanding all the intricacies of the market.
Stan Hendley, Director of International Business at Horizon Ag-Products, agrees with Lanciault that education is key.
“All of the products in this space will have an impact,” Hendley says. “The critical component is understanding how the products best fit in a farmer’s production system in order to gain the most benefit for the crop. This begins with education.”

Jeff Norrie, Acadian Seaplants
Jeff Norrie, Acadian Seaplants

The lack of understanding (at least in the U.S.) can and has led to products being categorized in ways that make it more difficult for them to be used.
“There is a movement to recognize biostimulants as helping stimulate nutrient uptake and abiotic stress mitigation; however, biotic stress effects are very well supported in the literature,” says Dr. Jeff Norrie, Agricultural Research Manager, Acadian Seaplants Ltd. “Often, products with biotic effects are registered under the Federal Insecticide, Pesticide, and Rodenticide Act, and require increased labeling vigilance and cannot be used off-label. Rather, they should be included in a soft chemistry category for ultra-low-risk products that, in almost all cases, leave no residue. This would allow for proper identification and separation of these products from more aggressive ones. As there is a current movement to correctly define biostimulants globally, we trust that this alignment will bring about the proper classification and recognition of the many benefits of biostimulants.”

Email Dan at [email protected]

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