Understanding the Difference Between Biologicals and Bio-stimulants

The purpose of biological products (or biologicals) and bio-stimulants are often confused. This article will help you understand what they are, how they perform differently and provide you with the basic knowledge to implement them more effectively in your agronomy program.

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What is a biological?

A biological is a product that contains cultures of living microorganisms. Biologicals are sometimes known as ‘bugs in a jug.’

What is a bio-stimulant?

A bio-stimulant is a product that promotes the increase of microorganism populations by enhancing the environment in which they live and/or by providing food for them to consume. Bio-stimulants do not contain living microorganisms.

How effective are biologicals and bio-stimulants?

Over the past 9 years of testing at AgRevival, bio-stimulants have shown consistently positive return-on-investments (ROI). Various biological products have also shown a positive ROI. However, the results from biologicals vary more from field to field. The reason for this variability can be attributed to a number of causes:

1) The type of microorganism(s) in the product may not be the right one(s) for your soil or crop.

The complexity of your soil’s ecosystem surpasses any one person’s understanding. Knowing which microorganism is lacking, or how introducing a population of microorganisms will impact the balance of this ecosystem is, at best, an educated shot in the dark. If a biological product isn’t working in a particular field, it simply may not be the one you need.

2) There isn’t enough food to sustain the additional microbial population.

Why is sugar added to make bread? To feed the yeast cultures. Without sugar, yeast cultures have no food to consume which restricts their growth and results in a flat, dense loaf.

Similarly, adding biologicals to the soil without ensuring an ample food source will yield little to no results.

3) The environment is not conducive to support the microbial population.

To continue with our yeast example, there is another reason your bread may not rise—your yeast died. This can happen if the water is too hot. In other words, something in the environment is killing off or limiting the microorganisms’ growth.

In farming, this can be caused by cool soil temperatures, a lack of oxygen in the soil, residual chemicals, heavy metals, high salt levels, or other factors.

Avoid mixing biological products with high-salt fertilizers.

The high salt content in fertilizers such as 10-34-0 is detrimental to soil biology. Adding a biological to a product such as this will nullify any benefits you might have gained.

Average yield increase from biologicals
High salt levels are detrimental to soil biology. As we can see from the data, the salt in 10-34-0 inhibited the performance of the biological products. With a bio-stimulant the effectiveness of the total mix increased over the biological only application.

Enhance the performance of biologicals by adding a bio-stimulant.

Adding a bio-stimulant to the mix can help boost the performance and reduce the variability of a biological product. Bio-stimulants can provide additional food and oxygen and reduce the negative impact from salts or heavy metals.

Bio-stimulants can be a great ‘stand-alone’ product.

Alternatively, bio-stimulants can help boost the population of beneficial microorganisms that are already present in the soil. In other words, you may not need to add additional microorganisms to the ecosystem to reap the benefits of a healthy biological population. Throughout our years of research, bio-stimulants have delivered a more consistent return-on-investment than biologicals.

Find a solution for your farm.

Not all biologicals and bio-stimulants perform equally. Over the years of testing these products, we have seen certain products consistently stand out. Contact us to learn more about our research and how you can implement the products and practices we’ve tested to yield a positive ROI on your farm.