The move toward research in biological products for a range of uses — from plant yield enhancement to pest control to disease prevention — is already showing benefits in the market. Yet there is “traditional chemistry” on the market that works on the plant, or the rhizosphere, as well. The key is that science is turning in the direction of tools that help the plant in addition to molecules that kill weeds or insect pests.

This change in direction is necessitated by the lack of new modes of action in traditional chemistry, and the potential available for biological approaches given the wide range of spores, bacteria and other beneficial organisms out there.

However, there are traditional chemistry systems that work on the plant as well, creating ways to beat disease while having a low impact on the environment. Several years ago, Syngenta launched Actigard, a product that pushes the plant’s own resistance into high gear to battle certain diseases.

All plants have some form of protection, and Actigard, when applied, simply turns on that protection. The process is called systemic acquired resistance, or SAR, and it is an area of continued research as part of the move to work on ways to help the plant protect built-in yield potential.

Differentiating between the SAR from Actigard and the induced systemic resistance from a product like Regalia Rx gets into the biochemistry of the plant itself. This will be a growing area of interest as scientists get better at understanding plant processes.

At Stoller USA, the traditional chemistry the company uses has been shown to ignite specific plant genes, helping boost yields. “The plant experiences a lot of stresses,” says Jeff Morgan, Stoller USA. “We’re able to produce a genetic response that tells the plant to continue its normal processes, to do this, or do that, in season.”

Morgan is talking about Bio-Forge, a popular product among yield contest winners year in and year out. The product is sprayed on — usually once per season,  but the flexibility allows for low-rate multiple application — and helps offset plant stress and reduce yield loss. “Our data show that we’re telling the plant to signal a reduction in ethylene,” he says.

Ethylene is the gas produced when a stressed plant starts to senesce, or die off. Bio-Forge is another example of a product that works on the plant, not the pest, to boost yield and enhance performance.

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