Based upon the numbers, the biologicals category has made some excellent market gains these past few years. Despite this fact, there remains much work to do for widespread acceptance to take place.
This was the overall finding of the 2021 Biologicals Survey, conducted by CropLife® magazine this past January and presented in great detail in the article “Biologicals and the Ag Retailer: Some Progress, But Challenges Remain.” The article was part of Meister Media Worldwide’s recently released Biological Crop Protection & Plant Health Annual Report.
The survey built upon an earlier such study, released back during the 2017-18 growing season, looking at the performance of the biologicals category in the ag retail marketplace.
First up, the 2021 survey asked about the mix of biological products companies currently sold to grower-customers — biofertilizers, biopesticides, and biostimulants. Respondents were allowed to choose all three biological products types for this question. And 27% indicated their companies sold no biological products at the present time — the same percentage as in the 2017-18 survey.
In terms of the three types of biological products, biostimulants remain the most common. According to the 2021 survey, 64% of respondents sell these products to their customers, up 1% from the 2017-18 survey. The percentage of respondents selling biofertilizers also increased from the earlier survey, up from 35% in 2017-18 to 39% in 2021. Meanwhile, the biopesticide segment saw its percentage drop slightly from 2018, down 2% to 31% in this year’s survey results.
How Are Biologicals Used?
As for how biological products are used by grower-customers, the vast majority are utilized in conjunction or combination with conventional agricultural products. In fact, according to the 2021 Biologicals Survey, 92% of respondents indicated this was the case with their biological product users. Only 8% said that their grower-customers are using biological products in place of conventional products in their fields.
Regarding how these biological products are being applied by grower-customers, 21% of the 2021 survey respondents indicated these were used as topicals. Another 15% said that biological products are applied as seed treatments. However, the majority of respondents, 64%, said that biological users were applying products as both topicals and seed treatments.
Barriers to Adoption
When survey respondents were asked about what barriers still exist within the agricultural marketplace to seeing the adoption of biological products become more widespread, they presented a range of reasons. By far the one mentioned most often by respondents was “a lack of trust in the product’s performance.” This was cited by 37% of survey respondents as the major reason biological products have had a hard time finding market acceptance.
In second place among barriers was cost. According to 20% of survey respondents, biological products are just “too expensive” compared with conventional agricultural products for grower-customers to use regularly. Close behind this was the belief that “conventional products are better than biologicals in the field,” which was mentioned by 18% of respondents. The remaining 25% cited myriad reasons for low biological product adoption, including storage concerns, a loss of seller profits, and regulatory issues.