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More growers are adopting biological products in a bid to reduce costs while embracing more sustainable agricultural practices. But experts says application timing and... How biologicals support uptake of phosphate at peak demand

More growers are adopting biological products in a bid to reduce costs while embracing more sustainable agricultural practices.

But experts says application timing and correctly identifying plant needs is crucial as the technology moves from first-generation products to those offering specific and measurable crop benefits.

Supporting plants with nutritional biostimulants during the peak phosphorus demand period has benefited Russell McKenzie, who manages a 160-hectare farm alongside his consultancy business in Cambridgeshire.

Trial results

Mr McKenzie uses a range of biostimulants from Unium Bioscience. They include Luxor, a product containing nutrients, humic and fulvic acid, and pidolic acid. Designed for use in soil and foliar applications, it is compatible with a range of fertilisers.

In a recent trial, Mr McKenzie compared Luxor with 200kg/ha of DAP and an untreated control on his winter wheat.

The goal was to improve phosphate uptake with Luxor – despite the farm’s typical phosphate index of one – to demonstrate potential for high yields.

The results of the trial were promising. Luxor and DAP showied an average response of 1.1 to 1.2 tons per hectare.

When factoring in the cost of Luxor versus DAP, Luxor proved to be significantly more cost-effective.

“Luxor provides phosphorus either through the soil or the foliage, with both forms complexed with humic and fulvic acid, ensuring the most accessible phosphorus source,” says Mr McKenzie.

Better roots

Combined with the phosphite Calfite Extra, Luxor stimulates plants to enhance root development and root exudation. This significantly increases phosphorus uptake efficiency by the crop.

Luxor is a nutrient biostimulant applied at key growth stages and increases phosphorus delivery to the plant. It can be applied close to the seed, in-furrow or as a foliar treatment, says Unium Bioscience.

Agrovista agronomist and consultant Daniel Knight says: “Our growers have a lot of confidence in the peer-reviewed, science-based, extensively field-tested backing of the products, and I have certainly seen an increased uptake.”

In his experience, Mr Knight says Luxor has proved to be a cost effective alternative to inorganic sources of phosphate fertiliser. “It doesn’t just offer nutritional benefits, it offers biostimulants as well,” he adds.

Crop benefits

“We have used it on a range of crops including maize, oilseed rape and potatoes – and we plan to use it on cereals this year where there is a phosphate or rooting requirement, weather allowing. If not, we will aim to apply from the onset of spring growth.”

Mr Knight says he has seen a marked impact on early maize growth, most evident where conditions were more challenging or where phosphate availability is inhibited, such as low indices or periods of drought or cold soils.

“It’s important to have a plan and use the products as part of a holistic programme where a need is identified, but they can be used curatively if there is a problem in season,” explains Mr Knight.

“Ultimately, a farmer’s budget is not infinite, and these products are financially in-reach as part of the nutritional budget for a crop and most importantly deliver results and return on investment.”