With a growing population comes increased demand for food and produce. And from natural fertilizers such as ground bones and manure to human-made and synthetic fertilizers, farmers have managed to boost crop production to answer to the demand.
However, some fertilizers can emit greenhouse gas that further exacerbates global warming. According to MIT’s Climate Portal, “worldwide, agriculture is the second-largest source of climate change pollution—and both the manufacturing and application of fertilizer has a heavy emissions toll.”
Can we increase food production sustainably and curb global warming? And if so, how?
Enter plant biostimulants
Plant biostimulants have been gaining popularity in recent years as they offer a sustainable and environmentally friendly addition to farming.
According to the University of Massachusetts Amherst, plant biostimulants – also known as “Biological Plant Activators,” “Plant Health Stimulators,” and “Probiotics for Plants” – stimulate plant growth and development by improving water and nutrient absorption from the soil.
Biostimulants also boost crops’ tolerance to abiotic stress, thus improving crop yield and quality.
Biostimulant market expected to top $60 billion
Two separate reports have shown that last year, the biostimulants market is valued at $27.6 billion, with annual revenue of $3.41 billion. Furthermore, the market is expected to see a 10% increase in annual growth between 2023 and 2031.
According to the report by Transparency Market Research Inc., the plant biostimulant market is estimated to reach $62.9 billion by the end of 2031.
Transparency Market Research Inc. looked into several biostimulant producers and found that the increased need for more eco-friendly agricultural approaches is largely due to the growing trend for more sustainably grown produce.
The most popular biostimulants, according to the report, were humic and fulvic acid, followed by amino acids, microbial stimulants, seaweed, vitamins, and minerals. The European Union is driving much of this growth, the report found.
In the past decade, sustainability in agriculture surged by 80% in some regions, found the market analysis by Absolute Market Insights found, citing the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
The plant biostimulant market growth is mainly driven by its safety and efficacy, but also the lack of harmful effects in the production process, as well as its use. “The organic farming sector is a major driver of the biostimulants market, as organic farmers are required to use products that are not synthetic or chemical-based,” the report read.
“The [Environmental Protection Agency] currently does not regulate biostimulants, but this is likely to change in the near future,” UMass predicts.
One step has already been taken, with the introduction in the U.S. Congress of the Plant Biostimulants Act, which would ensure biostimulants are not subject to unnecessary regulation intended for some types of chemicals.
“The lack of a standard regulatory definition or pathway to market for plant biostimulants makes accessing this innovative technology difficult for the sustainable agriculture industry,” said Rep. Jimmy Panetta, who reintroduced the legislation.
The European Biostimulants Industry Council (EBIC) also predicts regulatory policies could potentially help boost biostimulant sales by over 10%.
The Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) is supporting the Plant Biostimulants Act, as well as other provisions which are part of the 2023 Farm Bill with incentives that help grow the bioeconomy.
“A Farm Bill centered on innovation stands to incentivize the adoption of cutting-edge technologies and practices, resulting in benefits to the environment and rural economies,” Beth Ellikidis, BIO’s VP of Agriculture and Environment, explains in a Nov. 15 statement sent to Senate Agriculture Committee leaders.