How to Use Biostimulants for Fruit Production

Every grower, from backyard gardeners to commercial farmers, would love to do more with less. More yields, more soil diversity, more resilience—all with less fertilizer, less pest management, and less time to harvest.

By using biostimulants for fruit production, growers can do just that.

Biostimulants are substances and organisms that encourage plant growth and development. They can stimulate root growth, improve nutrient uptake, enhance photosynthesis, and activate plant defense mechanisms. Many of them are particularly beneficial for fruiting plants: everything from tomatoes and peppers to strawberries and grapes.

Used effectively, biostimulants can improve fruit yields, quality, nutritional content, and more. This article will explore the biochemical mechanisms that make this happen, review the most effective biostimulants for fruit production, and offer up strategies for integrating biostimulants into your garden, farm, or hydroponics operation. 

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How Biostimulants Improve Fruit Production

Some biostimulants are particularly well-suited for growers seeking to optimize the performance and quality of fruiting crops. By stimulating desirable physiological processes, they can improve fruit set, retention, yield, and quality. Biostimulants also foster the growth of microbial communities that align with optimal plant growth and development.

Biostimulants are commonly applied in small concentrations. They are a low-risk, high-reward way to boost production efficiency, quality, and even cosmetic appeal, where even subtle improvements can significantly increase the product value of specialty crops.

The biochemical modes of action in achieving these benefits are diverse and differ between different plant varieties, but there are a few key mechanisms through which biostimulants improve fruit production.

Enhancing nutrient uptake and utilization

Many biostimulants literally do more with less by enhancing nutrient uptake efficiencies. Biostimulants like fulvic acid and plant growth-promoting rhizobacteria (PGPR) modulate the biochemistry of the rhizosphere to transform pre-existing nutrient sources into plant-absorbable forms. Nutrient deficiencies are avoided and fruit yields improve.

Stimulating root growth

Microbial biostimulants like PGPR and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) are particularly effective at stimulating root growth. Stronger root systems improve plant access to nutrients and water and will release more exudates: a cocktail of compounds that improve soil and crop quality by aerating soil, attracting other beneficial microbes, sequestering toxic heavy metals, and protecting against pathogens.

Improving stress tolerance

Stressors, whether from drought, heat, cold salinity, or pathogens, are often the major limiting factor in plant development and fruit yields. Extreme environmental conditions, like a prolonged heat wave, can alone lower production by more than 50%.

Many biostimulants improve plant resistance responses. They can do this through a variety of mechanisms, including improving water retention, photosynthesis rates, and the production of vital phytohormones and antioxidants. The added tolerance can help maintain yields, even as growing conditions become hotter and drier.

Best Biostimulants for Fruit Production

The best biostimulants for fruit production are well-studied and consistently lead to improvements in fruit yields and quality. They include:

Seaweed extracts: Seaweed has long been used by farmers for its biostimulating properties. Seaweed extracts influence soil processes and plant physiology directly, while often being a source of plant nutrients. By modifying soil structure, nutrient solubility, root morphology, and microbial colonization, seaweed extract applications can improve fruit yield, size, and quality in several fruit crops, including wine grapes, strawberries, and tomatoes. Seaweed extracts can also be blended in hybrid fertilizer formulations for synergistic effects and improved fertilizer efficiency. 

Protein hydrolysates: Derived from animal waste or plant biomass, protein hydrolysates are a rich source of carbon, peptides, and amino acids. They help foster beneficial microbial communities, chelate essential micronutrients like zinc and iron, and encourage root development. Studies of protein hydrolysate applications demonstrated improved yields and quality traits in multiple fruit crops, including papayas, kiwis, navel oranges, and strawberries. 

Humic and fulvic acids: Humic and fulvic acids are natural organic compounds found in soil. They are characterized by their ability to chelate and retain minerals and nutrients, making them beneficial for plant growth and health. Organic matter, like compost and plant residues, is rich in humic and fulvic acids. In studies on peppers, tomatoes, and lemons, humic/fulvic acid applications significantly improved fruit yields, quality, and antioxidant and flavonoid production.

Chitosan: Chitosan, a sugar derived from shellfish, is a popular biostimulant. It improves photosynthesis rates and protects plants from pathogens and various abiotic stresses. Foliar applications of chitosan have been shown to increase yields, improve fruit shelf life, and decrease infection rates in strawberries, cherries, tomatoes, and other fruiting plants.

 Beneficial bacteria: Inoculations of beneficial bacteria like AMF and PGPR repeatedly demonstrate an ability to improve nutrient uptake, promote plant growth and stress tolerance, and increase fruit yield and quality in various fruit crops, including blueberries, grapes, and strawberries.

PGPR can also dramatically improve fruit quality and nutrition. In a study of greenhouse-grown cucumbers, PGPR inoculants resulted in increased production of flavonoids, antioxidants, and vitamin C.

How to Use Biostimulants for Fruit Production

Ultimately, biostimulants for fruit production work by encouraging ideal biological conditions and physiological processes for plant development. Importantly, using different biostimulants can have synergistic, force-multiplying effects. For example, introducing beneficial microbes alongside compounds that encourage microbial activity can supercharge their benefits. As part of an integrated fertilization program, biostimulants create a whole greater than the sum of its parts. They are a high-impact way for growers to do more with less. 

You can maximize the benefits of biostimulants for fruit production by incorporating them early in a plant’s life cycle. We suggest beginning by adding a high-quality microbial inoculant in the seedling stage. The early establishment of beneficial microbes within root systems will accelerate plant growth, root development, and stress tolerance. You can continue to add inoculations as frequently as every watering to ensure successful colonization.

Additional biostimulants can be added throughout the growing cycle for synergistic effects. For flowering and fruiting crops, where performance and quality are highly valued, we recommend incorporating Impello’s Tundra™ Hybrid Fertilizer as plants enter the flowering stage. This hybrid fertilizer has high phosphorus and potassium levels to encourage flowering and uniform development. The addition of kelp extract and fulvic acid serves to strengthen microbial communities and enhance nutrient uptake. 

This combination is an excellent starting point for fruiting and flowering plants. But variations in soil chemistry, growing conditions, and crop varieties mean there is no “one size fits all” approach to biostimulants. We encourage you to keep learning about biostimulants through our ever-expanding Education Center. You can also connect with us directly at we’d love to help you find the ideal biostimulant solutions for your growing needs! Learn more about biostimulants for agriculture too.

Join the thousands of growers harnessing the benefits of biology for fruit production: Click here to explore Impello’s high-performing biostimulant products!

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