Industry Trends, Evolution and Trailblazing

- Dan Custis

There’s a lot of industry buzz about biostimulants and biopesticides, and seed companies are screening more biological products in their testing programs than ever before.

I started working in this industry in the late ’70s selling soybean and legume inoculants and there were many soil amendments in the adjuvant category, such as seaweed. Farmers experienced good results with some products and none with others.

I’ve watched the market evolve from those beginnings into what it is today. Now, a reputable biologicals company can describe in detail what a microbe is doing, how that microbe performs, and what plant systems the microbe affects — and that company can provide replicated trial data to back up the claims it’s making about biological performance.

Most farmers want to see two to three years of replicated trial data from seed companies. Then the farmer will try the product to see if the data is replicated on his farm ground. We encourage seed companies to put our products in their replicated trials so they’re able to provide proof of what we know our products can do. That is what increases the adoption of products in the marketplace and it starts to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Another trend I see taking place is a shift in thinking about the application and use of biologicals. For example, in the past, if Maxim or Apron was put on the seed it was thought nothing else was needed.

Or if you wanted to put SabrEx on Acceleron-treated corn, once again, the use of the biological in addition to the seed treatment was questioned. Now we consider them companion products. Many biological products, such as biostimulants, extend the benefits a seed treatment, like Acceleron, provides the seed.

If a biological is living on the root system, the plant is feeding it with sugars and starches given off through the photosynthetic process; thus, the benefits of the biological can last into the crop’s flowering stage.

In return, the biological is feeding the plant enzymes and metabolites. Additionally, the biological starts to trigger changes within the plant. The biological and the plant have formed a synergistic relationship.

Our products have already evolved so far since the establishment of ABM in 2000. Not only on the microbe side, but from the standpoint of production, formulation, delivery systems and longevity on the seed.

And there are a lot of new innovations coming: not only from ABM, but in the marketplace. We’ve made significant progress so far, but in so many ways we’re still trailblazing, which makes it such an exciting time to be part of this sector.