Biologicals: Embracing Ag’s Oldest Technology

Biostimulants play an interesting role in the crop input market. They are among the oldest products used in agriculture. After all, the first farmers didn’t have access to the technology available today. And, as the science and efficacy behind these products has increased, biological products are among the fastest growing segments of all crop inputs.

“There is consistent growth in this market, and the main driver is return on investment. Growers want to make sure they get the most from their crop input dollars,” explains Mike Powell, Senior Brand Manager of Crop Production and BioScience Products, Helena Agri-Enterprises, LLC. “That’s why it’s so important to invest in products with proven track records.”


As with any rapidly growing industry, many players enter the market. That, Powell warns, makes it harder for legitimate providers to get their message out.

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“A quality bionutritional/biostimulant requires a high level of science. However, most of the market is filled with products with very little science behind them,” Powell says. “I encourage growers to look at products closely before purchasing, and work with a trusted advisor to make sure products offer consistent performance and compatibility with your program.

Even with that caveat, the biostimulant market is growing around the world.

According to John Appel, Head of Commercial Sales NA, Biome Makers, biostimulants, as a segment, are an important part of the broader biologicals market and are expected to increase from $3.14 billion in 2022 to $6.69 billion in value by 2029, with a compound annual growth rate of 11.43%.

Jon Giebel, Ph.D., Head Global Product Management & Licensing, for Indigo Ag, echoes that sentiment.

“The global biologicals market has been in a period of steady growth over the last several years,” he tells CropLife® magazine. “We expect this trend to accelerate in the near- to mid-term due to increased regulatory pressure, intensifying climactic pressure, and new biological product offerings hitting the market.”


“Companies across the value chain, from input manufacturers to retailers, are increasingly recognizing the importance of biostimulants as part of a complete agronomic solution,” Biome Makers’ Appel says. “With countless different soil types, environments, and other factors, we can’t expect a single solution. Rather, companies are working hard to fully understand their biostimulant products beyond yield results alone. By understanding which agronomic problems these products solve under specific conditions, these products can be more effectively placed in the marketplace.”

Photo Credit: Biome Makers

Photo Credit: Biome Makers

It’s not just science propelling the growth of biostimulants through the agricultural value chain.

“Driving the increase in market demand is a confluence of economics, regulation, agronomics, and sustainability,” Appel says.

Appel lists four drivers:

  • “First, given the input price pressure growers have experienced, particularly in the past 18 months, growers have tremendous pressure to reduce input costs. Products that increase fertilizer use efficiency have gained momentum.
  • “Second, new regulations such as the Farm-to-Fork strategy in the EU has driven a need to reduce synthetic fertilizer and pesticide usage significantly. Such reductions are only enabled by biological inputs.
  • “Third, as the agronomic benefits of biostimulants become more deeply understood, they gain more credibility in the marketplace. When products are placed on the right acre, growers see a higher success rate and return on investment as a result, which drives the adoption rate.
  • “Finally, there’s a clear consumer pull for sustainably grown food. At Biome Makers, we believe understanding the soil health implications of these products underpins this entire market.”


The modern biostimulants segment is still relatively new and therefore somewhat chaotic. That creates both opportunities and challenges. First the opportunities.

“Although very fragmented, with many companies in the space, the biostimulant market is still in the early stages of development,” Appel says. “We expect continued growth in the U.S. and Europe due to the trends mentioned above and the expansion into non-traditional biostimulant crop groups like row crops.

“In addition, countries in Asia-Pacific and Latin America will see a high rate of growth, driven by the potential for improved crop production, quality, and stress tolerance,” Appel continues. “The European Union is also pushing the industry forward with its new regulation. To maximize the benefits of biostimulants, farmers should research and find the best options for their farms and take advantage of government incentives and subsidies.”

As with any crop input, the more growers understand the offering and its benefits, the more likely they are to embrace them.

“Growers are much more aware of biological products today, and that presents a big opportunity,” says Greg Smith, Helena’s, Director of Brand Innovation and Development. “Helena has been researching biological products over the last 20 years, and we’ve built a strong portfolio. The independent research we’ve done makes us confident in our ability to help growers maximize their yield potential with biological options.”


While the market for biostimulants is expected to see continued growth, there are still challenges to overcome.

Starter Unit - Close Up. Photo Credit: Helena

Starter Unit – Close Up. Photo Credit: Helena

“Because this is one of agriculture’s fastest growing spaces, the amount of products coming to market will be a challenge for growers,” Helena’s Smith says. “There will be a lot of questions about which products work and which don’t. At Helena, we require our products to meet a certain set of standards. We’ll continue to stay true to that model and do the R&D work required to verify products before we take them to growers.”

Biome Makers’ Appel offers another concern.

“The single biggest challenge facing biologicals is inconsistent performance,” Appel says. “Biological soil analytics, such as BeCrop Test, can help overcome this by accurately diagnosing soil biology in different management zones, allowing a grower to understand where there might be a deficiency in soil biology, and helping identify solutions that will solve that agronomic problem. When this is done over time, growers will see improved crop yields and better soil health, which is ultimately what these products are intended to do.”


Biostimulants growth is happening around the world. Even in markets that have been quick to embrace these products there is still enormous opportunity to expand use.

“We still have a huge growth curve ahead of us here in the United States, and that’s where you’ll see Helena make an impact in the biostimulant market,” Smith says.

In addition to the U.S. Indigo Ag sees opportunities in the southern hemisphere.

“Biological products have very high adoption, especially among South American growers,” Giebel says. “This market is growing at the fastest rate across the globe, though we’ve seen great interest in key growing regions of U.S. row crops as well. Multiple harvests within a single calendar year drive intense biocontrol problems for growers in LATAM and they are asking for biological solutions that complement chemical crop protection and seed breeding programs in order to outpace pest resistance. Suboptimal soil fertility also provides an opportunity for plant biostimulants that enhance nutrient availability.”

Biome Makers has its eye on the U.S. as well countries in Europe.

“Adoption has been led primarily by the U.S. and countries in Western Europe, with the majority of applications on specialty crops,” Appel says. “It is an exciting time to be in this market as it is growing exponentially. At Biome Makers, we’ve worked with new and emerging ag input manufacturers and retailers across the globe, from North America to Europe, to Latin America.”