The introduction of the Green Revolution in the late 1960s led to a substantial agricultural intensification. The primary objective of the initiative was to feed a growing population with limited land resources and enhanced crop yields. Consequently, the use of agrochemicals, such as chemical pesticides and fertilizers, became an integral part of this industrialized approach. However, the extensive use of chemical pesticides led to a degraded soil quality and noticeable adverse effects on consumer health. An answer to curb these challenges lies in the use of agricultural biologicals. These products serve as a valuable tool contributing to sustainable farming practices as they are evident for biological crop protection as well as improving production.
Agricultural Biologicals: Key Component of Sustainable Farming
In agriculture, biologic crop solutions refer to different products obtained from nature, including biopesticides, biofertilizers and biostimulants. These bio innovations are primarily sourced from microorganisms, plant extracts, beneficial insects, or other natural sources. Agricultural biologicals are used to make the soil healthier, improve the soil microbiome, enhance and assist plant growth. The noteworthy part is that biologic crop solutions are beneficial for the environment owing to the fact that they do not leave any harmful residues in the ecosystem or show adverse effects on the health of cultivators and consumers. To reduce the reliance on regular chemical pesticides and other agrochemicals used in farming, biologicals in agriculture are a great alternative. In fact, these agricultural biologics are often the basis of sustainable farming systems in order to mitigate the use of hazardous agrochemicals and maintain a healthy ecosystem. The following figure presents the various differences between conventional farming practices and sustainable farming practices using biological crop solutions.
Types Of Agricultural Biologicals
Agricultural Biologicals are used either alongside chemical pesticides and fertilizers as part of an integrated pest management (IPM) program, or they can be applied as a standalone product for the biological crop protection of plants against diseases, insect pests, and competing weeds. In agriculture, biologic crop solutions are primarily categorized into three broad categories based on their functionality. These categories can be classified into three main types: biostimulants, biopesticides / biocontrols and biofertilizers. The following figure presents the three major types of agricultural biologicals used in sustainable farming.
Plant biostimulants, also referred to as agricultural biostimulants include a wide array of organic compounds or beneficial microorganisms that stimulate plant growth and development. According to the European Biostimulants Industry Council (EBIC), biostimulants promote the germination of seedlings and further promote the development of plants throughout the crop life cycle. These biological crop solutions work by improving nutrient uptake by the plants, enhancing root growth, and increasing stress tolerance in plants. Moreover, they enhance the physicochemical properties of the soil and support the growth of beneficial soil microorganisms to further support the plant surroundings. Biostimulants can be derived from various sources, such as seaweed extracts, humic acids, amino acids, and beneficial microbes. Presently, owing to the rising innovation in humic acid and mineral based biostimulants, the demand for these biologic crop solutions is also expected to grow over the coming years. The following figure presents the various types of biostimulants based on the source.
Biopesticides / Biocontrols
Biopesticides (also referred to as biocontrols) are natural compounds that protect crops by eliminating agricultural pests using natural materials / biomolecules or living organisms. Unlike conventional chemical pesticides, biopesticides may also involve beneficial microbial, such as insects and mollusks along with bacteria, fungi, or viruses, to target specific pests or pathogens, and mitigate their proliferation. Further, biopesticides play a crucial role in reducing environmental pollution caused by residues of chemical pesticides. Moreover, as these inputs are derived from living organisms, they promote sustainable farming practices. The following figure presents the various types of biopesticides / biocontrols based on the source.
Biofertilizers are environmentally friendly and represent one of the most effective modern tools in sustainable farming. Biofertilizers employe living microorganisms and natural products that enhance nutrient cycling and availability in the soil. These microorganisms primarily involve nitrogen fixing bacteria that can fix atmospheric nitrogen, solubilize phosphate residues present in the soil, and promote nutrient uptake by plants. By improving nutrient availability, biofertilizers help plants to grow healthier and more efficiently, reducing the reliance on synthetic chemical fertilizers. The following figure presents the various types of biofertilizers based on the source.
Key Drivers and Restraints for Agricultural Biologicals: A Market Impact Overview
The key market drivers and restraints in agricultural biologicals market refer to the factors or trends that stimulate / hinder the development and growth of the current industry landscape. These factors usually include various technological advancements, changing consumer preferences, regulatory changes, demographic shifts, and other influential factors that create demand and opportunities for businesses within the industry. To balance these factors, we can expect to see an increased collaboration between manufacturers, suppliers, and regulatory agencies to ensure safe, and contamination-free bio innovations. The following figure presents some of the key market drivers and restraints in the agricultural biologicals domain.
Market Trends: Stakeholders Collaborating for Agricultural Biologics Development and Distribution
Stakeholders in the agricultural biologicals industry have forged several partnerships in order to strengthen their agricultural biologicals portfolios and augment the reach of their proprietary crop protection products. It is worth highlighting that over 70% of these deals have been inked since 2021. Notably, the majority of such deals are focused on distribution of biopesticides across different regions, followed by product development and acquisitions signed for biofertilizers. Moreover, it is interesting to note that close to 45% of the deals are inked by the players established in Europe. In May 2023, Syngenta Ag signed an agreement with Unium Bioscience for the distribution of biostimulants across Northwest Europe. In another deal inked between Bayer Ag and Kimitec in February 2023, the companies partnered together to develop and commercialize their novel biopesticides and biostimulants product portfolio. The following figure presents the various types of deals inked by stakeholders engaged in this field.
Recent Developments and Future Perspectives
In recent years, the agricultural biologicals market has witnessed various innovations, in terms of the source of the products as well as integration of gene editing technology. The future of using agricultural biologicals is highly promising and holds great potential for sustainable and efficient farming practices. By promoting natural processes and minimizing ecological impacts, agricultural biologicals contribute to long-term sustainability in farming. Ongoing research and development efforts in the field of agricultural biologicals are likely to lead to new and improved products. This includes the discovery of novel microorganisms, formulation techniques, and understanding of biological interactions in agricultural ecosystems. Over the last few decades, demand for biologic crop solutions, such as biofertilizers and biopesticides, in the North America region has witnessed a tremendous increase. Moreover, the EU implemented the Farm to Fork strategy in 2020, initiating substitution of chemical pesticides and fertilizers with agricultural biologicals. Such advancements will contribute to the effectiveness, reliability, and versatility of agricultural biologicals in the future. Serving as the basis for organic farming, as consumer demand for organic products continues to rise, the use of biological crop solution is expected to witness a constant traction as well.