The use of biological preparations in agricultural production is not yet widespread, but it may turn out to be necessary in the face of climate change, including the implementation of the principles of the European Green Deal. We talk about their role and future with Janusz Mazurek, BEng, PhD – Director of Research and Development at Bio-Lider.
What are biopreparations and what is their role in food production?
The term “biopreparations” is understood to mean any product whose activity involves the use of organisms or compounds naturally occurring in nature. In the case of our preparations, these are primarily specially prepared and selected colonies of live bacteria that we obtain from the environment. We also offer a product based on phenolates naturally occurring in plants.
The use of bacterial products has a very wide range of applications:
- It supports the restoration of the microbiological balance of the soil due to the optimal selection of the composition of strains of various species of bacteria.
- It accelerates the process of mineralization, which allows increasing the availability of nutrients from the decomposition of organic matter – thus reducing the need for high doses of mineral.
- It uses the ability of some microorganisms to decompose hard-to-degrade plant components, such as lignin, cellulose and hemicellulose, activates the process of putrefaction, which maintains proper air-water relations in the soil, increases the absorption of nutrients, maintains moisture in the soil, prevents the processes of excessive soil compaction and protects plants against the effects of unfavorable stress.
- The bacteria contained in the biopreparations also help to maintain the correct crumbly structure of the soil.
Therefore, biopreparations participate in many of the most important processes related to the broadly understood soil fertility. However, for this to be possible, it is necessary to have the appropriate technology that guarantees obtaining a high concentration of bacteria. Therefore, their multiplication takes place in computer-controlled bioreactors, which provides full control over the process of their formation.
What types of biological preparations do you offer and for whom are they intended?
We offer solutions for soil, plants and probiotics for animals. Our products are used in agricultural production, gardening, animal husbandry as well as in home gardens or urban green spaces. Bio-leader provides preparations to support the biological life of the soil, agents for hygienizing the plants root system or bacterial preparations used in the form of foliar application, whose task is to restore the natural microflora on the plant surface. We also sell a preparation for supporting the preparation of silage and another one for limiting the growth of algae and cyanobacteria in water reservoirs. We also produce preparations for microbiological seed treatment.
How are biopreparations made?
Our biopreparations come from one of the most modern industrial laboratories in Poland, which is located in our sister company Bio-Gen. We are one of the pioneers in the commercial application of biopreparations – the technology that we use has been developed for almost 30 years, and our products are sold all over the world. It is possible thanks to the appropriate laboratory equipment, which allows not only to conduct research on microorganisms, but it also allows them to be produced in sufficiently large quantities, with high concentration while being of very high purity, which is the basic factor of their effectiveness.
What are the main benefits for farmers from the use of biopreparations?
First of all, biopreparations help to restore the disturbed microbiological balance in the soil, which is the result of the intensification of agricultural production. In this way, at least in some part, the natural capacity of the soil to effectively nourish the plants is restored. Due to the stimulating properties of bacteria through their influence on the hormonal balance, the ability of plants to develop a strong root system is also improved, which allows for better water management. Finally, biopreparations make it easier for plants to overcome the stress resulting from unfavorable environmental factors that inevitably accompany any agricultural production today. In this way, plants become more resistant to stress caused by both drought or too much water, excessive soil compaction, contamination with synthetic organic compounds and, finally, plant infestation by diseases and pests.
The most important effect of using our products which is certainly interesting for farmers is the increase in the size and quality of the crop. And this is what convinces many of our customers in the first place. Of course, as with any innovative solution, it takes time and education to convince customers to use biopreparations. Therefore, we are more than pleased that thanks to the cooperation with PROCAM, which is our distributor, we reach more and more people – we implement joint campaigns to educate the agri-food industry. We also conduct extensive testing.
Does the inclusion of biological preparations in agricultural production make it easier for farmers to achieve the objectives of the European Green Deal?
The need to maintain a high level of yield, but this time without increasing the consumption of fertilizers per hectare of field, is one of the basic prerequisites for implementing the Green Deal concept. It is therefore necessary to find common sense that allows, for example, to increase the efficiency of the fertilizers used. Our products fit into this strategy. For many years, the agricultural production system functioned properly while ignoring the role of microorganisms, their influence on the transformation of nutrients, support for the processes of formation of crumbly soil structure, humification or even health. The intensification of agriculture largely related to, for example, cultivation with plowing, the lack of proper crop rotation as well as the use of fertilizers and plant protection chemicals for many years led to a strong depletion in the soil of proper amount and availability of bacteria. Over the years, it has been possible to maintain productivity mainly through the intensification of mineral fertilization. Supporting modern agriculture through the use of bacterial preparations has become a necessity without which it is difficult to imagine the development of plant production. A very good example of this is AzotoPOWER. It is a bacterial preparation, created on the basis of a unique bacterial multiplication process, which includes free-living isolates of bacteria of genera Azotobacter and Arthrobacter that have the ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen. Biological fixing of N means transforming atmospheric nitrogen, which is a very slightly reactive gas, into ammonia that can be taken up by plants in the form of ammonium ion, or converted by other groups of bacteria to the easily accessible form of nitrate. These bacteria not only effectively fix atmospheric nitrogen, but also positively affect other groups of bacteria which run the transformation of the organic nitrogen that appears along with the decomposition of bacterial proteins. In this way, it is possible to at least partially reduce mineral fertilization while maintaining the yield at a profitable economic level. Finally, increasing the efficiency of fertilization means reducing the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. And we are not talking about eliminating them, because the economy cannot afford it currently, but limiting their excessive use. From this perspective, our research on the optimization of fertilization by increasing biological activity is very closely related to such activities.
Another direction of activities related to the implementation of the Green Deal is all too obvious in the context of what we do as Bio-Leader, i.e. counteracting the loss of biodiversity and reducing the level of pollution. In this approach, it should be remembered that bacteria use a wide variety of carbon compounds for their development. These include, for example, petroleum compounds, oils but also all kinds of organic pesticides. The greater the microbiological activity, the faster decomposition of such substances under certain conditions, and thus the reduction of their residues in products intended for consumption. This is really one of the most interesting and very promising directions of work on microorganisms.
Is the use of biopreparations a distinguishing feature on the market?
Certainly, the awareness of the use of biopreparations is gradually increasing year by year. On the one hand, it is awareness resulting from personal beliefs, but also from growing scientific knowledge about them. That is why universities, like other scientific institutions, are keenly interested in knowledge about the use of biological preparations. Obviously, along with the growing awareness among consumers, also commercial networks are involved in promoting healthy food, and this is inevitably associated with the need to set standards for its production. And this is where biological preparations become an indispensable component. Especially in the field of measures to reduce the use of pesticides and to develop such a method of production that, while minimizing their use, minimizes the residues in food.
How do the use of biological preparations and the development of biotechnology support sustainable agriculture?
The use of biopreparations allows for the improvement of biodiversity and the pursuit of a circular economy. And it is this last element that will be particularly difficult to implement because it requires a kind of redefinition of the way in which producers will manage the soil. And at this point, the use of biopreparations, for example in the context of their ability to mineralize, i.e. return nutrients to circulation, fits perfectly into this concept.
Thank you for the interview!