- Fruits: berries (blueberries)
- Crop Production: biological inoculants
The word biostimulant is used to describe a collection of products that contain ‘effective’ microorganisms (informally called bugs in a jug) and/or plant or animal derived constituents that are alleged to stimulate plant growth and improve crop yield and soil health. They are marketed as being more sustainable alternative and/or supplements to conventional agrochemicals. The biostimulant market in the USA is growing rapidly but there has been limited research to test their efficacy. We are proposing to address this gap in research. Biostimulants are often used in blueberry production, which is one of the fastest growing agricultural sectors in the Southeast, and Georgia is one of the leading growers.
Our project fits in the blueberry production system, with a focus on the response of soil microorganisms to application of biostimulants and how that in turn affects the growth of blueberries. Microorganisms drive soil processes that are essential for the sustainability of the system. As such, the soil biological health is a crucial component of the overall sustainability of the blueberry production system. The use of inputs that promote the soil biological health will therefore strengthen the system by contributing to its overall sustainability.
Our project is highly relevant to sustainable agriculture. Biostimulants often contain bacterial and fungal inoculants that have the potential to enhance plant nutrient availability and prevent diseases. The supply of labile sources of organic matter from biostimulants has also the potential to enhance the beneficial services of the indigenous soil microorganisms. As such, the availability and use of effective biostimulants may decrease the reliance on some traditional agrochemicals. It can also address the lack of alternative products for organic farming and play an important role in recycle wastes that often are the sources of ingredients for biostimulants. Our proposal employs systems approach as it addresses multiple components of the system — blueberry, soil health and growers. It also includes multiple stakeholders and experts to address several components of the system.
Project objectives from proposal:
The project objectives are:
- Characterize Georgia blueberry growers’ experience and expertise in using biostimulants.
- Determine the impact of biostimulants on blueberry growth and postharvest fruit quality characteristics in greenhouse and field studies.
- Determine the impact of biostimulants on soil biological health and relationship between soil biological health and blueberry plant growth and postharvest fruit quality characteristics.
- Develop educational materials on selection, use and evaluation of biostimulants for growers.