Chemical concerns spur microbial based ag products
November 28th, 2014
Plant stimulant | Inocucor Technologies claims its microbial product can boost crop yields by 10 to 15 percent
A Montreal-based manufacturer of “yeast and bacteria” believes its biological product can make the leap to large-scale agriculture.
Inocucor Technologies announced last month a partnership with McGill University researchers to develop products for commercial crops such as soybeans, canola and wheat that use microbes to stimulate plant growth.
The initiative adds to a growing list of alternative products to conventional pesticide, herbicides and fungicides.
“There’s a huge amount of interest in biologicals right now,” said Donald Smith of McGill University, who studies plant-microbe interactions with a focus on growth, yield and nitrogen fixation.
In some cases, a stricter regulatory environment and a loss of chemical efficacy have spurred interest, he said.
“There’s several things going on. In part, there’s a public concern about chemicals, whether it’s justified or not, it’s there,” he said.
”So there’s kind of a view that biologicals are a good alternative.”
The sector has seen a flurry of activity and investment from large multinationals, including Novozymes, the Danish company that bought Saskatoon’s Philom Bios, which produces crop inoculants.
Novozymes has since partnered with Monsanto to research and develop microbial-based products for agriculture.
Other companies, including Bayer and BASF, have made acquisitions in recent years.
More recently, Platform Specialty Products bought Arysta for more than $3.5 billion.
Inocucor itself has received venture capital funding from Cycle Capital Management.
The company already produces a product that uses a “microbial consortia” to speed up plant growth. It’s used as a soil amendment in the United States, where it’s approved for use by organic growers, and in ornamental ponds in Canada.
“I think it could easily be applied to a wide range of crops, and that’s really where it’s going at this point,” said Smith.
Inocucor said its technology can boost crop yields 10 to 15 percent.
“When we say it’s a bio-fertilizer, it’s not really providing nutrients, per se, although some of these things can provide better access to, for instance, phosphorus,” said Smith.
“But this one is a lot of focus here one growth stimulation.”
Smith has tested the product in field trials.
“I’m a bit cautious about making large-scale extrapolations, but I think it looks like a farmer will be able to see a meaningful percent in-crease,” he said.
“In general, biological technologies are not all expensive to apply. It looks like it should be cost effective for farmers.”
He said organic and conventional growers can use the product, but it would likely need to be developed as a seed treatment or something that could be applied at seeding time if it is to make the leap to large-scale production.
“It’s altering the physiology of the plant a little bit, so they grow better and withstand stress a little better,” said Smith.
Nov. 13th, 2014 by Dan Yates