Understanding the biochemistry behind seaweed extracts and why they are active in plants is helping to underpin the development of novel products aimed at stimulating crop growth and protection as well as soil health, by Olmix, based in Brittany, France.
Dr Maria Matard-Mann, research project manager at the company says a group of compounds present in seaweed, but not found in land plants, are sulphated polysaccharides. “When spreading these on crops the plant does not recognise sulphated molecules and considers them as aggressors.”
This has the effect of stimulating the plant’s natural defences, which can prime it to respond better to disease and environmental (abiotic) stress such as drought, according to the company.
Founded in 1995, Olmix initially focused on trace elements and clay products for animal and human health and nutrition. It subsequently expanded into seaweed products and made its first foray into plant care in 2006. Its first seaweed-based biostimulants were launched in 2015. Among various acquisitions to augment its plant care portfolio and market reach was Nottinghamshire-based Micromix, in June 2018. Olmix employs 800 staff and has a turnover of €166m (£145.85m).
Seaweed used in its products is harvested on the Brittany coast and processed in Brehan. Of the 700 species found in the area, green and red are mainly used by the company, with green tending to have more of a biopesticide effect and red, biostimulant properties, it says.
Didier Blin, product manager, plant care at Olmix explained how the company had adopted an Integrated Plant Care Management concept aimed at enabling plants to withstand attacks from pests and diseases, improving plant nutrition and improving soil quality. “We are not just another seaweed dealer. Olmix is the only company that offers a holistic view of plant management. Integrated Plant Care Management is based on a range of biosolutions that have a positive influence on all the physiological factors that impact yield potential: resistance to biotic and abiotic stress situations, ability to capture value from nutrients and soil quality,” he said.
The company works with research institutes and universities across Europe, including the University of Nottingham. Micromix sales manager Chris Gamble, who is planning UK trials of biostimulants this autumn says: “This is the first time in agriculture we are saying let’s look at the interaction between trace elements and biostimulants in a way that understands what the molecules do.”