A relatively new type of plant health product which complements both crop protection and nutrition, biostimulants are set to play an increasing role in integrated pest and disease management programmes for ornamentals.
Because they have no direct effect on pests or diseases they fall outside the scope of plant protection legislation, but you still need to take care to source products from manufacturers who can provide the research and trials evidence to back their claims. Most reputable suppliers, including Syngenta, belong to the European Biostimulants Industry Council (www.biostimulants.eu).
Biostimulants can include various substances, sometimes micro-organisms, that can boost plant vigour, yields, quality or stress tolerance. Many include nutrient compounds: though these act through different mechanisms to fertilisers, biostimulants have recently been brought into Europe-wide regulations covering the performance and quality of fertilisers and related products, which should help to raise product quality overall and give growers more confidence to use them.
You may have already tried one or two of these products but none will have been formulated especially for ornamentals – until now, that is, because Hicure, which we have recently launched in the UK, is the first biostimulant developed specifically for them.
Hicure contains a blend of amino acids and peptides – nitrogen-rich molecules that are the building blocks for all the complex enzymes and other proteins the plant manufactures. Plants can make amino acids and peptides from nitrogen in fertiliser and carbon fixed during photosynthesis but it takes energy that could otherwise be used for other aspects of growth and development. Under stress, plants may even stop producing amino acids or break down some proteins so the amino acids can be used elsewhere – some amino acids, for example, help to protect from stress.
So, by providing a source of ready-made amino acids and peptides, you can help the plant make more efficient use of its photosynthetic energy and better able to withstand stress.
In our trials we’ve found Hicure helps plants counteract stress during transport and on the garden centre bench and combats wilting in cut flowers. In trials on cyclamen, development of botrytis was delayed on Hicure-treated plants, while weekly applications to lavender on the nursery improved root growth and flowering after planting out.
The best results come from applications made before critical physiological stages such as flowering; to stimulate rooting when potting on; or when hot weather is expected – though regular treatment is better than a single application.
You don’t need any special equipment to apply Hicure and it’s compatible with most crop protection and fertiliser products, though not sulphur, mineral oils or copper.