Like animals, plants also require an adequate supply of appropriate nutrients if they are to grow and remain healthy. Most will remember from their high school science lessons that the essentials are air, water, sunlight and various minerals, particularly nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. However, growth is just one aspect of a living organism’s survival. If it is to achieve its full potential, a plant also requires specialised materials that act as biostimulants, also known as phytostimulants.
The materials in question may be either microorganisms or chemical substances. Their role is that of an adjuvant or catalyst, which can act to enhance certain of a plant’s biological activities. For example, a sufficient concentration of such materials in the soil could encourage more robust root growth, improve the uptake of nutrients or provide protection against disease. In a nutshell, the presence or absence of various plant biostimulants in the growing environment can spell the difference between thriving and merely surviving.
From a grower’s perspective, one of the most significant benefits of these materials is how they can help a crop maintain vigorous growth despite otherwise hostile growing conditions. The resulting improved quality and yield at harvest time can add substantially to a farmer’s bottom line. Among the environmental conditions that can prove hostile to crop development are extremes of temperature, drought, waterlogging and high levels of salt or heavy metals in the soil. Fortunately, commercial products containing plant biostimulants are now available. These preparations have been developed to help plants overcome the adverse effects of these common forms of abiotic stress on the growth, development, seed production and yield of cash crops.
In South Africa, these substances are often referred to as biofertilizers despite having a very different role from that of conventional fertilizer. In practice, the European terminology has become the preferred and more accurate one. In terms of their composition, most of the plant biostimulants in everyday use are organic in nature. They include humic and fulvic acids, various nitrogenous compounds, hydrolysed proteins, chitosans and similar polymers, and beneficial fungi and bacteria. While certain of these chemical agents can be synthesised, they are often extracted from natural sources such as kelp, fish emulsions and algae.
As the founders of South Africa’s fertilizer industry and leaders in the specialised field of plant nutrition, Kynoch has developed two invaluable plant biostimulants. The soil amendment, KynoHumate-Black™, is especially effective in overcoming salinity stress while KynoFulvate-Yellow™ can be applied to foliage or soil to promote nutrient uptake, energy levels and germination by increasing cell membrane permeability.