Plant biostimulants contribute to climate-smart agriculture


P lant biostimulants stimulate natural processes in plants to enhance nutrient uptake and efficiency, crop quality, and tolerance to abiotic stress, benefitting both plant yield and vigour. This ensures that plants have good baseline strength and health, making plants less vulnerable to stress, pests, and other threats, including climate shocks. Biostimulant products can help farmers adapt their agricultural systems to an increasingly volatile climate while enhancing food production sustainability, thereby contributing to a climate-smart farm model for the future, which is both resilient and flexible.

Here are some of the ways plant biostimulants have been shown to contribute to climate-smart agriculture, particularly in increasing climate resilience and adaptation:

  1. Plant biostimulants enhance nutrient use efficiency in plants
    • Plant biostimulants help plants access and use more of the nutrients in and applied to soils by
      • Providing additional beneficial micro-organisms to the soil environment
      • Enhancing early root growth in crops
      • Stimulating root production of substances
    • This helps to reduce the climate footprint of the nutrients that are used. Because there is less waste of nutrients, the effective fertilization per unit of energy used to produce them is higher. Reducing nutrient losses to the environment includes the volatilisation of certain nitrogen gases that contribute to the greenhouse gas effect.
  2. Biostimulants help to improve agricultural resilience to climate shocks
    • Plant biostimulants help farmers adapt to climate change by making crops more resilient to abiotic stresses, including climate shocks such as floods, drought, and extreme temperatures, for example:
      • Some biostimulant products enhance root growth in plants, improving access to water even in drought conditions;
      • Plants that are heat tolerant will survive heatwaves better and start normal growth again more quickly when temperatures cool.
    • Protecting against abiotic stresses also reduces the chances of plants falling prey to opportunistic pests or diseases, and scientists expect challenges from pest and disease to increase with climate change.
      • For example, fruits that split due to hydric stress attract pests and provide an opening for mould to attack.
  3. Plant biostimulants enhance soil health
    • By enriching the micro biodiversity of soils, microbial plant biostimulants help improve soil fertility, health, and structure to benefit plant growth and climate resilience.
    • Soil health is crucial to sustainable food production, but also the capacity of agricultural soils to store carbon.
  4. The circular nature of plant biostimulants enhances resource efficiency and reduces nutrient losses
    • Many plant biostimulants are derived from secondary raw materials, such as plants, algae, and animal by-products from several different value chains.
    • This industrial symbiosis helps to improve resource efficiency at a systemic level.

As these attributes are better-communicated to stakeholders and better catered for by regulatory frameworks, plant biostimulant products look set to become increasingly important instruments in a farmer’s climate-smart agricultural toolbox. However, farmer uptake depends on better information, incentives, and the right regulation.