February 08, 2019
Agricultural production: drought and other abiotic stresses
The 65% of productive losses in main crops such as corn, wheat or barley are caused by abiotic stresses related to climatic variations (Biochemistry and Molecular Biology of Plants, Buchanan, Gruissem, Jones, American Society of Plant Physiologists, 2000).
Source: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology of Plants, Buchanan, Gruissem, Jones, American Society of Plant Physiologists, 2000.
Plant exposure to abiotic stresses such as higher and lower temperatures than the optimum temperature of plant growth and water stress conditions produces changes on physiological functions. These changes derive on a decrease on crop yield. Among them, drought is the natural phenomenon that most affects agriculture. According to FAO studies between 2005 and 2015 agriculture sector had economic losses accounting for around 96.000 million dollars in developing countries due to climatic disasters.
For this reason, the efforts on investigating how to increase plant tolerance or adaptation to temperature changes has always been of high importance. Those investigations have led to the application of plant bioestimulant treatments or to the selection or to the transfer of genetic characteristics from wild species, which are better adapted, to domestic species.
To achieve the success of improving the resilience of plants to extreme changes in temperature would allow to extend the calendar and/or the crops geographical area of cultivation of numerous species of economic interest.
The IGC (International Grain Council) has recently placed the cereal harvest figures for the 2018/2019 season at 2.079 million tons, below to the previous season. This reduction is caused by the effects of adverse climatology. These conditions have affected the main cereal producing areas. According to the IGC, the world cereal production has been dragged especially by a low wheat and barley harvests in the European Union (EU) and in the Commonwealth countries.
World wheat production is projected to reach 725,1 million tons, which suppose 2,8 million tons less than November’s projections. According to the most recent FAO’s forecast for 2018/2019 campaign of world wheat production, the consumption of this cereal stands at 2.595 million tons in 2018. This represents a slight decrease since November and a 2,4% (62,5 million tons) less than data registered last year.
The IGC raised its projections for maize crop produced in the European Union to 63,1 million tons from a previous projection of 60,4 million tons. In November 2018 the world production projection was 1.073 million tons.
The decrease in production is also motivated by the reduction of the cultivated surface. This reduction was due to the fall in the profitability of corn farms. On the one hand, this is due to the costs increase of inputs such as phytosanitary products, since it is necessary to increase the number of applications because of the reduction of active substances. The development and use of biological products that improve the nutrient uptake efficiency will represent an alternative to the prohibited active substances and will optimize the costs of production.
Last year, Spain was hit by an intense drought which has settled in Europe now. Many European countries, especially those from far north, are suffering the same problems suffered in Spain a year ago.
In 2017, severe drought conditions occurred in different countries that led to low crop yields and to a decrease in the global production of 4%. For instance, in Spain the reduction was of 25% comparing to 2016. A smaller dedicated area to cereals joined to smaller yields caused by drought, heat stress and too late heavy rains are the main causes of the decrease of global cereal production. In Spain, the production was 6 times less than the global average. (Sources: CIC, Comités de Gestión de la Comisión Europea, MAPA).
The recent extreme weather conditions are carrying out important harvest loses all over the world. The situation in other productive areas as USA has passed from 5 years of extreme drought (California was under state of emergency) to a winter with unprecedented heavy rains in 2017. Along these years, the experts qualified this drought as the most severe of last century, in fact, one year ago the future of part of the economy of the first agricultural power world in USA was in risk.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (United Nations) declares that “we are determined to protect the planet from degradation, including through sustainable consumption and production, sustainably managing its natural resources and taking urgent action on climate change, so that it can support the needs of the present and future generations”. Specifically, Goal 15 states our solutions to halt and reverse land degradation.
Green biotechnology is able to offer solutions to all the problems described by applying different tools as biostimulant products and the development of new tolerant varieties to adverse weather conditions. Seed and agrochemical Industry are actively working on the development of these kind of solutions.
IDEN’s mission is to develop biotechnological products and integrated solutions for crop yield and quality enhancement, including agrobiological products, like plant biostimulants and biopesticides to help crops to face the current weather conditions such as drought.
By using biostimulant products it is possible to obtain an improvement on crop yield in extreme weather conditions. In that sense, with the biostimulants developed by IDEN, the plants present a better resistance to abiotic stresses as drought thanks to its effect on plant metabolism.
Biostimulant products contain a wide range of bioactive compounds which improve the efficient use of nutrients and so that, crops can tolerate adverse weather conditions. According to the imminent regulation whose publication is expected in 2019, two categories of biostimulants are distinguished according to their origin: microbial (based on living microorganisms) or non-microbial (organic or inorganic).
The use of extracts produced by beneficial microorganisms, base of IDEN’s products, has been associated to a better crop growth and a yield improvement. For instance, these improvements are associated to a better assimilation through different mechanisms, particularly a better N, P, K absorption when the crops are inoculated. Some of these microorganism’s extracts facilitate the nutrient absorption and some others, facilitate a higher root system development, therefore, they are very useful and interesting for fighting against abiotic stresses. IDEN’s biostimulants represent a new segment in non-microbial biostimulants based on their origin from extracts produced by microorganisms.
Today’s agriculture demands a balance between high production by guaranteeing consumers, farmers and environment safety. Generally, biostimulants are biodegradable, nontoxic, non-contaminant, harmless for the auxiliary fauna, moreover, they have a minimum safety period of time, without residues for both crops and fruits. For all that, biostimulants are products with many advantages for facing up adverse elements such as frost damages. Besides, biostimulants are suitable for all kind of agriculture handlings from conventional to organic. (Source: AEFA - Asociación Española de Fabricantes de Agronutrientes).