Scientists at BioAtlantis have co-authored a review on biostimulants, published in the scientific journal, “Biomolecules”. The publication reviews the molecular effects of different classes of biostimulants, humic substances, algae extracts, protein hydrolysates and microorganisms. The research represents a collaboration between scientists at the University of Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro in Portugal, BioAtlantis Ltd. in Ireland and Bangor University in Wales, supported by the European Regional Development Fund through the INTERREG Atlantic Area Programme, under the project ‘NASPA’.
The review, entitled “Recent Advances in the Molecular Effects of Biostimulants in Plants: An Overview” (Baltazar et al., 2021), describes the latest scientific insights on the mechanisms of plant biostimulants and how they enhance crop yield and tolerance to abiotic stresses. This review is very timely, given the potential of these products to enhance agricultural sustainability and increase food security in the face of climate change. With the world’s population rising, there is an increasing demand for higher agricultural output with lower resources. In parallel, there is also an urgent need for more sustainable agricultural inputs and safer food. Given their natural origin, biostimulants have the potential to substitute conventional methods in agriculture and reduce the usage of certain synthetic agrochemicals which can potentially impact on the environment and waterways.
For decades, it’s has been extremely difficult to elucidate the precise underlying molecular mechanisms of biostimulants, largely due to the inherently multi-molecular nature and varying composition of these substances. It has also been shown that the effects of biostimulants may vary depending on the extraction/production processes involved and the type and levels of constituents in the end products. Despite this, new studies are beginning to unravel the pathways triggered by certain products at the cellular and gene level.
The article also describes how certain seaweed extracts such as SuperFifty®, function as molecular priming agents to enhance crop tolerance to oxidative and abiotic stresses, citing new landmark studies in the process. As outlined, recent molecular studies demonstrate that SuperFifty®, an extract of Ascophyllum nodosum, modulates a range of processes at the transcriptomic, metabolic and lipid levels. Moreover, these changes involve multiple pathways and culminate in significant changes at the phenotypic level, including: tolerance to oxidative stress and abiotic stresses; reductions in Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS); reductions in electrolyte leakage and increases in plant growth. As such, new studies are beginning to change our understanding of the modes of action of seaweed extracts, shifting the focus to specific polysaccharides as the most likely drivers of effects observed.
BioAtlantis’ work centres on understanding the molecular effects of biostimulants and priming technologies, and how they can be applied to enhance the sustainability of agricultural practices and increase food security in the face of stresses imposed by climate change. This article provides a novel, scientific overview of this area and highlights how understanding their molecular influences could lead to further refinement of these treatments.