In recent years, James Walgate, who farms at Hall Farm, Cuxwold, Lincolnshire, has introduced biostimulants into his growing programmes.
Mr Walgate says: “We are using biostimulants to optimise the growth of crops which are presently compromised by our increasingly dysfunctional soils caused through a deterioration in soil health.
“Our emphasis is on improving root growth and development, enabling roots to scavenge for nutrients and water more efficiently.”
With current nutrient use efficiency being down at 10-30% for phosphate, and 50-70% for nitrogen, there is huge scope to improve this. Improvements bring both crop economic and environmental benefits.
Biostimulants have also been linked to minimising the effects of stress, such as drought and waterlogging, on crop performance. These are often referred to as ‘stress busters’ and Mr Walgate is looking to exploit them.
“If health is optimised, then plants are better equipped to cope with pest and disease attacks, thereby expressing the full potential of the crop or variety. As we experience extreme weather events on a more regular basis, such as this year’s drought, building resilience into our crops can only be beneficial.”
Concerning cost, Mr Walgate says: “I do not see these products as adding cost, but more as a change in cost distribution, switching some of our plant protection investment into biostimulants and micronutrients, building the plant’s own defence mechanism.”
At Hall Farm some large investments are being made as it develops controlled traffic farming, reduced tillage systems and introduces new rotations including cover crops, as part of a long-term strategy to improve soil health.