A Good Defense – Impello’s mission of preventative agriculture seeks to stop crop problems before they start.

Published by Greenhouse Growers

While microbial relationships are foundational to plant life, the crop protection industry has largely failed to harness the power of the microorganism plant connection, says Dr. Marie Turner, creative director and head of scientific communications at Impello Biosciences.

The Colorado biostimulant company is answering the call with nutritional products that support the synergy between plants and microbes  - an association that will ideally allow growers to avoid crop problems rather than merely reacting to them.

“I think of it in terms of human metaphors,” says Turner. “Like if you ingest the right foods, and take care of your system as a whole through exercise and getting enough sleep, you are far less likely to develop illnesses because you’ve made your body a resilient place with natural immunity.”

At Impello, this mission of “preventative agriculture” is sustained by products like Continuµm™, a consortium of four co-cultured microorganisms that rebuff pathogens while making nutrients readily available to the plant. Dune™, another popular Impello offering, utilizes monosilicic acid to protect plant structure along with providing resistance against adversarial conditions such as drought, heat, and pest infestation.

Instead of incorporating Dune into other nutrients, Impello has focused on a silicon-based formulation that farmers add to their regular nutrition protocol. Outcomes include less yellowing as well as reduced susceptibility to breakage when moved.

Making proactive moves allows producers to populate their grow with good things rather than leaving space for potentially damaging pathogens, Turner says. In the case of Dune, the addition of silicon is akin to a “preventative medicine” in people, she adds.

“Silicon is like a vitamin,” says Turner. “So, just like eating a diet rich in calcium helps humans have more resilient bones, this is what silicon does for plant tissues. We also hear that upright growth habits come from using Dune, and that these habits are more supportive structures for high yields.”

A New System

Although biostimulants like Dune reduce insect and disease damage, they are not biopesticdes. Instead, these products compete with mildews and other fungi. A developing body of research further suggests that strengthening plant tissue inhibits disease-spreading insects from feeding on a crop.

Reducing the frequency of pest-control inputs can reduce production costs along with the emergency labor needed to triage pest and disease outbreaks. Additionally, forward-thinking farmers utilizing Impello’s preventative strategies won’t have to worry about time- and money-consuming resistance problems, Turner says.

“There isn’t anything we have that you can’t use with more traditional chemistries - this is important because we know that growers are confronted with problems that must be immediately solved,” she says. “However, our belief is that with a preventative regimen, they won’t be forced to make these difficult choices nearly as often.”

Grower support is a key facet of the Impello model, considering these individuals know their systems and needs more than anyone. To that end, the company’s flexible chemistries let farmers build their own protocols – yet another way to mitigate common pain points before they arise, says Turner.

Preventative solutions can contribute to modern sustainability expectations as well. For instance, a decrease in synthetic fertilizer applications through nutrient use efficiency means less potential runoff for farmers concerned about beneficial insects and water quality. Ultimately, the defensive tactics advocated by Impello builds an environment that takes killing almost completely out of the equation, Turner says.

“We’re creating a system in which nothing needs to be killed, because good microbes are keeping pathogens at bay by preventing them from growing to problematic numbers,” says Turner. “Strong plants that have been given their vitamins are less susceptible to anything you might throw at them.” Impello backs its preventive approach with data – from university trials to internal testing. The company website is a constantly updated resource hub, with officials also considering a university extension model as an additional information source. For now, Impello continues to bang the drum of preventive-style agriculture. With limited modes of action in the larger chemical ag space, the biostimulant producer is getting better at developing diverse microorganisms able to act together. Such innovations may not give plants everything they need to grow, but they can help protect crops from the inevitable, says Turner.

“What we are learning about the different mechanisms that microbes use to support healthier crops seems to grow every day,” Turner says. “This makes the possibilities for how they can help us farm almost endless.”

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