Managing expectations and gauging adoption rates of biostimulants

Inoculants are an accepted and proven biological product that has been used for decades on farms. Other classes of biologicals — nitrogen fixers, biopesticides, and biostimulants, for example — are newer products that many farmers are exploring how to best integrate into their input plan.

Stratus Ag Research has amassed data over the last few growing seasons on the acceptance, sentiment, and attitudes towards biostimulants of both American and Canadian farmers.

Sarah Healy, market research manager with Stratus Ag Research, says that the level of use was consistent in 2022 and 2023, but there were changes within categories. One of the key observations from the survey is that there are still plenty of feelings of uncertainty about biological products overall, partly because of just how many different categories and products there are.

That’s further complicated, she adds, because many products are a combination of two or more products, such as an organic acid combined with a seaweed extract or a protein. (More below)

Farmers are more positive towards biological products year-over-year, Healy says, but satisfaction is still much lower compared to traditional crop inputs. “There seems to be still this gap in performance versus expectation for these products amongst growers. There’s a lot of uncertainty in the category that we still haven’t moved past that. I think we’ve moved past the snake oil era of biostimulants, where growers understand the value of this technology,” she says.

Consistent performance of these products is still a challenge. The survey found that a yield increase isn’t necessarily the “value” metric used, and that calculating ROI on some products is difficult.

“Are we going to have to wait until the product performance from the companies improves? Or are growers going to have to start adjusting their own expectations of what performance looks like in the field or what ROI looks like in the field?” she says.

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