How plants respond to stress and how you can help them!

Like other living things, plants can be stressed too. But unlike animals that can move away from adverse environmental conditions, plants must stay where they are, rooted to the spot. As a result, plants have had to develop mechanisms to cope with stress as much as possible. Unfortunately, this adaptation to stress usually means that something else must be sacrificed.

How plants respond to stress

Generally, plants are considered to be under stress when the environmental conditions around them are not ideal for growth. It is estimated that key agricultural crops may only be producing about 30% of their genetic yield potential due to environmental stress.

Environmental stress can reduce crop productivity directly such as when poor growing conditions like drought and salinity limit water uptake and inhibit cell expansion; or when cold conditions lower the activity of important enzymes that control growth.

But plants that are experiencing stress can also intentionally slow their growth through stress-triggered cell signaling. In this way, plants divert energy and resources away from normal growth processes and towards mitigating the stress. For example, in response to lack of water, plants can reduce stomatal opening in order to conserve water. This in turn, decreases the rate of photosynthesis and slows growth. Plants may also increase the size of certain organs to adapt to stress. For example, under dry conditions, plants can increase root length to search for moisture. In doing this however, they may sacrifice the growth of other important organs linked to yield and quality.

What you can do

Good nutrition is important for overall plant health, but current scientific research is also discovering the usefulness of biostimulants in mitigating plant stress. The European Biostimulant Industry Council describes a plant biostimulant as “a material which contains substance(s) and/or microorganisms whose function when applied to plants or the rhizosphere is to stimulate natural processes to benefit nutrient uptake, nutrient efficiency, tolerance to abiotic stress, and/or crop quality, independently of its nutrient content.” Last year, our team conducted trials with several biostimulants including plant hormones, fulvic acids and seaweed and generally saw positive results on yield and ROI. With high fertilizer and crop prices along with challenging climatic conditions, biostimulants can be a great addition to a cropping program. Your SynergyAG rep can discuss suitable options for your farming operation.

– Ikenna Mbakwe, PhD, PAg

  Head of Research

Biologicals, Humics … What?

Biologicals, Humics … What?

There are a lot of buzz words in modern agriculture: soil health, sustainability, regenerative agriculture, precision farming and the list goes on. With the rise in commodity prices this year,  farmers are trying to maximize the genetic potential of their crops. This has opened the door to many ‘magic bullet’ products in the market, leaving producers questioning the science and capability behind them. The truth is, though, there is sound science behind a lot of these products, we do not treat them like a one size fits all type of product. Depending on your agronomic practices and budget, we can find a product that fits your needs.

Biologicals are gaining significant popularity for the majority of Canadian farmers. Biologicals are beneficial to crop protection tools found mainly from naturally occurring living organisms. They fall into two main categories: microbial and biochemicals. Microbials are relatively well understood, but there is still lots to learn and research regarding biochemicals.

In terms of how these fit into modern agriculture, there are obvious and commonly used examples such as nitrogen-fixing rhizobia, which is used on pulse crops. These rhizobacteria form root nodules that fix atmospheric nitrogen that is transferred into the plant. There are organisms in the soil that convert ammonia into nitrates. Other organisms take phosphate and solubilize them to make those elements available to the plant. These organisms are in a mutually beneficial relationship with the plant, that can work to improve overall soil health.

Although the biochemical segment of biologicals is relatively undervalued, we are beginning to see considerable advantages to using humates. Humates consist of humic and fulvic acids, as well as raw humates. Humic and fulvic acids combine minerals to make them into organic compounds ingested by plants more efficiently. Humates come from a variety of sources, such as shale and coal. Different sources and processing methods are used to create humate fertilizer products.

When considering biologicals, it is essential to work them into an integrated pest management system. These products work best when paired with a well-managed fertility and soil plan. That way you are ensured optimal results. They must complement a nutrient and not replace a nutrient. Biologicals show significant value, but we are also faced with some limitations. Often, these products are misused and misplaced because growers don’t understand how to use them.

At SynergyAG, advancing our knowledge around these products is extremely important to us. We have a research facility located in Pense, Saskatchewan, where we frequently test products before recommending them. We collect soil from various locations around the province to ensure that the products we are trying will perform to peak standards for our SynergyAG team and our growers. We send our agronomists out with their boots on the ground to scout and monitor the field’s activity. Contact your local SynergyAG agronomist today to learn more about the future of biologicals.