CropTec Biosolutions Hub Q&A with Greg Hanna

Greg Hanna, Technical Specialist at UPL UK & IE, will be discussing the merits and potential benefits of combining seed treatments with biostimulants, to aid early plant growth and crop establishment.

Meet Greg on Wednesday November 27th at the UPL Biosolutions Hub, stand 1.34, as he delivers his presentation alongside Rob Adamson, also from UPL.

Q1: When was your first experience of the world of biosolutions/biostimulants, and what was your opinion of them?

A: I first came across biostimulants when I conducted trials work for a Contract Research Organisation (CRO). We were contracted to apply biostimulant products to wheat and oilseed rape. My first impression was that their benefit was limited, and didn’t justify the cost of an extra input.

Q2: How has this opinion changed since?

A: My opinion has definitely evolved! Biostimulants have an important role to play in allowing a crop to reach its full potential, this is clear from many trials. But admittedly, it can be difficult to see a benefit because other factors can also influence a crop such as disease pressure.
Timing is key with biostimulants so that they can influence the right processes in a plant at the right time. They do work and are beneficial, but only if we use them correctly and to do this, we need to improve our knowledge, which I guess is why we are bringing the subject to CropTec!

Q3: What do you believe is the biggest challenge that biostimulants face, in terms of uptake of use and practical application?

A: Biostimulants are not generally well understood, certainly not to the level of conventional plant protection products. We have a challenging task to understand the modes of action, and how these interact with different crops at different timings. Plus their strengths, weaknesses and how to utilise them to their full potential.
The world of biostimulants is not as black and white as it is with plant protection products, it’s the variability that we need to try and understand.

Until we can answer these questions with more confidence and provide sufficient guidance for application, there will understandably be scepticism.

Q4: What do you think the industry needs to do to overcome potential challenges / barriers?

A: From a scientific perspective, we need more research and a deeper understanding of the modes of action, both in terms of gene activation / regulation, and also in terms of signalling cascades. Biostimulants interact with plants in complex ways that we don’t always fully understand. Projects such as the one currently taking place at the University of Nottingham with Professor Stephen Rossall (LINK), will help us to shine some light on these areas.

Q5: What excites you about biostimulants?

A: I believe that these products have the potential to mitigate the effects of the loss of traditional chemical active ingredients. Through deeper research into biostimulants and their effects on plant physiology, we will gain a more in-depth understanding of our crops from a new perspective. We are at the beginning of our understanding in many ways, and there is a good deal of scope to realise greater benefits from this sort of product.

Q6: What frustrates you?

A: Negative perceptions rooted in a lack of knowledge and understanding. We are losing our traditional chemistry; biostimulants provide us with potential ways to maintain good productive crops despite this. We need to keep trying because each time we conduct work, we learn more. In time we will refine how to use these products in order to realise tangible benefits in crops.

Q7: If you were a grower visiting CropTec 2019, what would you want to know about biostimulants?

A: What will they cost? Will I see a benefit? Will I see a return? Do they actually work?
Hopefully the Hub will address some of those questions and more.

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