Ag Biologicals – answer to soil health and residue free agri-produce
Agriculture has evolved from subsistence agriculture to modern agriculture through green revolution and genetic revolution to help increase yields for feeding the burgeoning world population. However, the technological advancements have also affected the soil and environmental health adversely due to excessive use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
The recent focus of agriculture industry on alternate ways for improving crop productivity have led to identification and development of biological products (i.e. biological pesticides, fertilizers and predators) which can be used either in combination with chemicals or by themselves. The products developed from microbial strains (fungus, bacteria, virus, and protozoans), plant extracts, enzymes and predators fall under the category of Ag Biologicals. The application of these products provide distinct benefits as they enhance plant’s productivity, soil fertility, access to critical nutrients needed for survival and enhanced ability to take in nutrients like Phosphorus, Zinc, Potassium etc. In addition, they complement or potentially replace other pesticides, are safe for non-target organisms and are known to show no resistance to Biologicals. Since benefits derived from Ag Biologicals are also dependent on the application of organic matter in soil, optimum soil productivity can be restored. In addition, usage of biological products do not pose any health hazards to farmers or laborers working with them.
Biologicals inputs are growing at a CAGR of close of 15% and are emerging to be a critical part of the agri-inputs industry. This is also evident from multiple acquisitions and collaborations by companies in the seed and Biologicals industry in the last decade. The major driving factors for the increased usage of Biologicals in agriculture are going to be (a) political and societal pressure for greener, safer and more sustainable crop protection products, (b) retailer demands for low or no residues on food crops, (c) an increasingly tough regulatory climate for chemical products, (d) resistance development to existing conventional chemical pesticides, and (a) lack of novel chemistry.
The usage of Biological products in agriculture will lead to global agriculture becoming more environmentally sustainable in terms of soil and farmer’s health. Safe crop produce being devoid of any harmful residues will in turn positively impact consumer health. Use of biological inputs will also address the concerns of farmers, scientists and most importantly the end consumers – all of us.