Biostimulants World Congress 2023
A new approach to crop protection: how FertiGlobal defines innovation
More than 1400 delegates flocked to the Biostimulants World Congress 2023, held in Milan, Italy, in November. With FertiGlobal’s ‘Crop Management Program’ philosophy wholly centred on the principle of biostimulation or bioactivation, the company exhibited at the event and shared its approach with delegates.
Claus Brakemeier, FertiGlobal’s global business development manager, explained the need for innovation in agriculture and why FertiGlobal believes it can be delivered with a new approach to crop protection.
What is innovation? In FertiGlobal, we’ve defined it as “a process by which a product or service is renewed and brought up to date by applying new processes, introducing new techniques or establishing successful ideas to create new value – value being a defining characteristic of innovation.”
As for the reason why we need innovation, we have only to look at the state of modern agriculture. Overuse of chemical plant protection products, nutrient losses, soil degradation, loss of biodiversity – the list goes on. And it’s for these reasons – or mitigation of them – that have given rise to the European Green Deal and its Farm2Fork strategy.
By 2030, we can expect to see organic farming make up between 25-30% of European farmland; to have reduced the use of chemical pesticides by 50%; and to have reduced nutrient losses – without affecting soil fertility – by 50%.
It’s a tall order, hence the need for innovation. But if the use of chemical pesticides is to be reduced by 50%, what will replace them?
FertiGlobal’s approach has been to look at how we can help the plant to help itself. After all, plants have been growing for more than 400 million years: during that time, they’ve developed their own complex defence mechanisms. How can we make better use of these?
That’s where we’ve focused: on the importance of biostimulation. We’re rethinking ‘crop protection’, realigning it to the idea of boosting the plant’s capability to defend itself.
What does the plant need, in terms of bioactivation, to perform better when it’s under stress? Given that many crops do not even reach 20% of their production potential, how do we reduce the effects of crop stress – whether biotic or abiotic – and remove one of the major causes of productivity reduction?
From the start, this has been out-of-the-box thinking. FertiGlobal has pulled together a new team, characterised by diverse skills, knowledge and experience. They’re using ultra-modern facilities. And we’re investing in research that has enough depth and power to deliver our objective: a truly innovative, new-ball approach to crop protection.
It’s all about making the plant our ‘teacher’. If we take time to analyse and understand the stress factors that impact crop productivity and quality, we can study the plant’s reactions and correlate those with elements of the plant’s own self-defence mechanisms. Then we can use that acquired knowledge to research and develop the innovative formulations and products, each family of products termed a ‘Technology’, for example FOLISTIM or EnNuVi.
We also decided our formulations and products would some basic but essential requirements:
- Safe and environmentally friendly raw materials, preferably derived or extracted from biological origins, combined with essential plant nutrients;
- Balancing of those raw materials so that that they can bioactivate the plant’s inherent self-defence processes (remembering what we learned from the plant ‘teacher’);
- Formulations that avoid adding more stress to the plants when they’re used: high analysis suspensions, liquid solutions, water-soluble powders, wettable powders, and so on.
This approach to product development must be balanced against testing: how do we make sure our products work the way they’re intended? We start with growth chamber tests, then move on to glasshouse trials. When we’re satisfied with the performance, we bring in the scientists to confirm the mode of action and check phytotoxicity and environmental performance.
Next, we take the products into the field. Only through extensive field trials can we prove the products’ efficacy under real conditions. We need to know how they’ll perform on different crop, in different regions, in varying soil types, and during all seasons.
Once we´re confident we have consistent results, we take the products to the growers for demonstration purposes: primarily efficacy and economic performance, but also to monitor ease of application and compatibility.
It’s this meticulous approach to product development that defines FertiGlobal’s portfolio, and every product within it. We’re confident about the ability of our products to deliver innovation; with this approach, we can ensure our customers can be confident they’ll do just that.