By: Mariateresa Cardarelli
Department of Agriculture and Forest Sciences (DAFNE), University of Tuscia, 01100 Viterbo, Italy
The global agriculture system occupies approximately 40% of the earth’s surface and must face these three challenges: feeding a growing population, providing a livelihood for farmers, and protecting the environment. Due to the massive use of natural resources (e.g., water, soil, energy), the agricultural sector significantly impacts on the environment, soil fertility and long-term crop productivity. Seed treatments with microbial plant biostimulants represent a sustainable approach for enhancing desirable crop traits like uniform seed germination, high seedling vigor, and extensive root system. Currently, only mycorrhizal fungi, Rhizobium spp., Azotobacter spp., and Azospirillum spp. are included in EU Fertilizer Regulation 2019/1009 (Component Material Categories, number 7) as microbial plant biostimulants. However, in some EU countries (e.g., Italy) the national fertilizers laws allow the addition of other beneficial microorganisms like Trichoderma spp. in the commercial mycorrhizal inoculants to increase the possibility of synergistic action in promoting plant growth and abiotic stress tolerance and improving yield and nutritional quality. Seed treatments are largely used for arable crops and vegetable crops especially when adverse environmental conditions are expected such as with direct sowing in open field. Seed treatments can induce fast, and vigorous emergence of seedlings enhancing the possibility to capture resources, tolerate environmental stress, and compete with weeds. Seed quality is therefore one of the main goals of seed industries for promoting sustainable agricultural intensification under climate change. According to market research reports, the global biological seed treatment market is estimated to reach USD 1.7 billion by 2025, recording a CAGR of 11.9% since 2020, including biofertilizers, biopesticides, and biostimulants. Considering only seed treatments with plant biostimulants, the global market is expected to reach about USD 338 million by 2025.