New biostimulant increases crop yields, reduces environmental burden

Photo: Ota Blahoušek
Wednesday 30 November 2022, 15:00 – Text: Šárka Chovancová

A highly effective plant growth stimulator has been developed by scientists from the Laboratory of Growth Regulators, a joint workplace of the Institute of Experimental Botany of the Czech Academy of Sciences and the Faculty of Science of Palacký University Olomouc. The biostimulant can increase the yields of agricultural crops and their ability to absorb nutrients supplied by fertilisers from the soil, reducing the burden on the environment. Under licence with a British partner, the new product containing a patented Czech substance called MTU is already being sold to farmers in the UK. It will be available to farmers in other European countries, including the Czech Republic, next year.

The plant growth stimulator MTU, an abbreviation of its chemical name, significantly increases the resistance and yields of agricultural crops, while having a positive impact on the environment. In fact, plants treated with MTU have increased ability to utilise nitrogen fertilisers, which is another reason why they grow faster and produce more. The plants are able to absorb more nutrients from the applied fertiliser into their organs, thus reducing nutrient leaching from the field into the surrounding ecosystem.

“According to our research, the new substance increases the uptake of nitrogen nutrients by up to a quarter, which means that it will probably be possible to apply less of it to the field. For example, in a field trial in Hungary with corn, 15% less nitrogen was used without any yield loss. This is important both for meeting Green Deal objectives and due to the current skyrocketing of fertiliser prices. At present, these are one-year field trials that will need to be further confirmed,” said Jaroslav Nisler of the scientific team that developed the compound ten years ago.

MTU prevents the breakdown of chlorophyll, increasing its content in the leaves. “Treated crops can then better absorb carbon dioxide during photosynthesis, creating more energy-rich substances (sugars) that are used for faster root and stem growth. Plants are then better able to absorb water and the nutrients dissolved in it,” said Miroslav Strnad from the Laboratory of Growth Regulators.

Thanks to these properties, MTU mitigates the effects of drought, heat and other adverse conditions on plants. “This is particularly useful nowadays, when growers are more often faced with the consequences of extreme weather events due to global climate change,” adds Nisler. However, the product also stimulates plants in normal field conditions and significantly increases their yield. “For example, in field experiments with wheat in the Czech Republic in 2015-2017, MTU increased the average grain yield by 7 percent,” noted Nisler. Any only a very small amount of the product needs to be used. Half a gram of MTU per hectare in a 200-litre spray solution with water is sufficient.

The exclusive owner of the patents for the new biostimulant is the Institute of Experimental Botany of the Czech Academy of Sciences, which signed a licence agreement with the British company Intracrop in February of this year. The product is now manufactured in Germany, sold in the UK, and will be on the market in the Czech Republic, Poland, and Hungary from 2023. The plan is to expand future sales to all EU countries, Ukraine, Turkey, Canada, and the USA.

British licensee Intracrop now sells MTU in the product Status, in which the company has combined MTU with a natural biostimulant, pidolic acid, to enhance its effect. “We recommend applying Status in the spring; from our experience, it increases yields in wheat, corn, rapeseed, and sunflower by 5% to 15%. Feedback from UK growers who have used it in this year’s dry spring has been exceptionally positive,” says Mark Palmer, Intracrop director. “We are really excited: we see this biostimulant with such an effective single ingredient as the Holy Grail of the future,” added Palmer.

For its potential environmental benefits in reducing fertilizer use, the new biostimulant MTU won an award in February 2022 in the US Next Gen Fertilizer Innovations Challenge, which focuses on innovations in the field of fertilization. The main organisers of the competition are two US government agencies: the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).


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