What Exactly Is a Biological?

It’s the buzzword in the industry right now, but what exactly constitutes a “biological” is a bit fuzzy. Microbials, biofungicides, bioinsecticides, bioherbicides, biostimulants, biorationals, biofertility, biocontrols and inoculants are all commonly-used terms in this space.

We all know that the world is made up of living organisms, and that’s essentially what a biological product is — a living organism. For decades farmers and scientists have been using these living organisms for crop production, animal health and human health.

In terms of agriculture, any product that contains a living organism is considered a biological product. An example is a bacteria or fungus applied to the seed or other plant part that works to enhance the plant.

However, the results have historically been hit-and-miss, but this is changing. Today’s scientific advances allow us to harness these organisms with great precision. These organisms are found everywhere in our environment, from the soil to the shell of an acorn. Companies are able to test, sort and select the organisms they think will be most effective in accomplishing their goal. This could be fending off pests in the soil that destroy the root system, enhancing plant health and promoting growth.

Each company has their own process and methods for selecting organisms. At ABM, we use a highly selective process and then develop the selected organisms, such as Trichoderma and Bacillus strains such that they will live and thrive in and around the roots of plants.

From their niche inside the root, these biologicals work by using metabolite signals to communicate with the plant. These signals tell the plant to alter its gene expression to better resist stress of all kinds, both biological and physical, which leads to healthier, bigger and greener plants.

Why use a biological? When it comes to disease control, chemicals are very effective but only remain active for a short time. Additionally, chemicals can be detrimental to beneficial microorganisms on the plant and in the soil. Biologicals are living organisms some of which live and grow inside the plant root throughout the season, thus providing longer activity than most chemicals. Yet their biological nature is also the tricky part … because they are living organisms, storage, handling and sometimes the soil environment can impact their efficacy.

Today, biologicals offer growers a real result. Simply put: biologicals use nature to control nature — be it mitigating a destructive disease or enhancing plant growth — leaving a lighter footprint on our field ecosystems.