Translating environmental sustainability into performance and profitability
Efficiency and interaction between bio-stimulants and agrichemicals is the key to maximising ROI and environmental credentials
Cost challenges and the availability of fertiliser and other inputs, alongside pressure to reduce carbon footprints, are combining to effectively create the perfect storm as growers struggle to maximise margins.
“In contrast, this has in fact created the opportunity to address cost and performance challenges, alongside environmental responsibilities, with the use of biological options,” says Richard Phillips of UK bio-technology company AminoA.
With pressure to meet new sustainability initiatives, bio-stimulants can play a key role, but must be measured by ROI and performance, according to Mr Phillips.
“Biological products can help reduce the speed of disease development, as well as boost yields and quality. It is about understanding all elements of the growing process, from soil health to disease resistance, to the interaction between biological solutions and agrochemicals,” he says.
“By grasping this, we can translate this into performance and profitability.”
Many growers have identified and incorporated new agricultural systems with the aim of both reducing input costs and the impact on the environment. Again biological options can play an important role.
Regenerative agricultural systems have come to the fore, and have been adopted by many including Irish grower Ken Corrigan, who strives to use very little, or almost no chemicals or fertilisers on his fields, both grassland and tillage.
He has found the introduction of the AminoA range of bio-stimulants has helped support this system both in terms of disease control and performance.
“This will be our third season using AminoA products and we have found them to be very beneficial for our crops,” he says.
“We initially used the natural bio-stimulant AminoA FLO just on our maize in the first year, and were delighted to see it grow 11 foot tall, with two healthy cobs.
“Last year we grew it on our combicrop wholecrop of beans, triticale and rye, and were again pleased with the results. It helped it stay healthy and disease free, despite the fact we don't use fungicides,” adds Mr Corrigan.
The correlation between efficiency and improvements in yield, quality and environmental sustainability are clear to see. Nowhere is this more evident, than in the efficient use of nitrogen, particularly given the volatility of AN input costs. This has been a key focus of AminoA product development over many years.
With the introduction of a hybrid bio-stimulant product that short-circuits the crop’s natural growth process, the company has now been able to reduce the total nitrogen application needed on crops, while still achieving yield and quality improvements.
Independent commercial winter wheat crop trials in 2022 demonstrated an almost 4:1 Return on Investment, by reducing the N intake and replacing with AminoA BLAAZT, the new UK developed bio-stimulant product that introduces a concentrated form of nitrogen in the plant.
The trials compared a 100% N application plot of winter wheat (var. GRAHAM), against a 75% N plot and a 75% N plot with a 20 l/ha (10 litres at T1 and T2) application of AminoA BLAAZT.
The trial revealed the AminoA BLAAZT treated plot returned a yield of 11.65 t/ha, well above the 10.92 t/ha of the untreated 100% N sample, and 10.54 t/ha yield of the untreated 75% N plot.
The residual nitrogen on the site was very low due to the previous crop of winter oats with a 10kg reserve, so an additional 210kg was applied through the season, taking the 100% N plot to a total of 220kg.
“With the reduced AN inputs, this represents a margin over fertiliser cost for the BLAAZT treated plot of £2746.60, or £274.90 more than the 100% N untreated plot. This represents a ROI of 3.9:1, based on input costs at the time of the trial,” explains Mr Phillips.
“Even without the yield increase, it would have been cheaper to replace the additional AN with AminoA BLAAZT, with total input costs of £492.10 against £564.06 for the 100% N plot.”
Reducing total nitrogen application
Colin Chappell, named Protein Grower of the Year in the 2023 National Arable & Grasslands Awards and winner of the on-farm sustainability Rawcliffe Bridge Award in 2022, has been using AminoA BLAAZT for the past three years as part of a wider programme to reduce nitrogen applications.
Focused on reducing inputs, Mr Chappell included BLAAZT in foliar applications for spring crops to relieve stress in wheat, while applying later in OSR at pod fill. He explains, “I was able to achieve a 40 kg reduction in nitrogen last year.
“We have still been able to achieve relatively good results with low inputs, and BLAAZT plays a role in supporting this,” he says.
“Properly formulated bio-stimulants will not only help reduce the environmental impact of agrochemicals, but our trials and user experiences suggest they can also help reduce grower costs and improve profits,” concludes Mr Phillips.