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New class of biological products heads to market

Tom J. Bechman Brian Springer, left, of Alltech Crop Science and Adam Hensley of Helm stand at a table and speak at a field day
NEW PARTNERSHIP: Brian Springer of Alltech Crop Science (left) and Adam Hensley of Helm explain how the two companies are collaborating to bring new microbial-based products to market.
Hi-Tech Farming: This unique class of biologicals promises more consistent results.

Helm Agro and Alltech Crop Science recently announced they would work together to bring new products containing microbiological agents to the market soon. In fact, Alltech already offers a lineup of biologicals. Helm will assist in marketing them, plus both companies expect more products will be on the way soon.

What sets these products apart is that they contain metabolites from microbial fermentation, says Brian Springer with Alltech. Some of them act as biostimulants. Some, but not all, biological products on the market today contain biology related to seaweed.

“Growers tend to see results some years, but not every year,” says Helm’s Adam Hensley. “Since this new line of products relies heavily on metabolites of microbial fermentation, not on living organisms themselves, results are consistent every year, because the product isn’t as dependent on environmental conditions.”

Some products in the future may combine metabolites from microbial fermentation with chemistry to form products with multiple ways to benefit plants. Visit helmagro.com.

Well-kept secret

You may know about Alltech if you’re in the livestock business. The company has long been a major player in livestock nutrition. Unless you’re a specialty crop grower, you may be less aware that Alltech has a Crop Science division and has developed products for decades. Now that the company is partnering with Helm for distribution of existing products and research on unique new products, expect to hear more.

Springer with Alltech says the company focuses strongly on improving soil health. Products already available include Soil-Set, Contribute SR, Crop-Set, Grain-Set and Nature’s Basics 2X. Soil-Set, for example, contains bacterial metabolites and enzymes from bacterial fermentation. Uses include improving residue breakdown and improving soil organic matter. Spokespersons say it helps optimize soil microbial populations. Visit alltechcropscience.com.

Introducing nutrigenomics

Some future products Helm and Alltech hope to develop together rely on nutrigenomics. Put simply, according to Alltech spokespersons, nutrigenomics is the study of how nutrition affects gene expression. Knowing which genes are “upregulated” or “downregulated” offers a window into understanding plant growth and learning how to optimize plant function and health.

It’s not genetic modification, because the plant’s genetic code isn’t artificially altered. No genes are removed, and no genes are added from another organism. In simple terms, these are not GMO products. Instead, researchers look at how they can influence existing genes to do what they want through nutrition, with bioactive compounds or other stimuli.

Nutrigenomics became feasible once the genomes of several important crop plants were mapped over the past two decades. These include corn, soybeans, wheat, rice, tomatoes, cotton, barley, citrus, grapes and sugarcane.

Insects for food

Insects for food? You read that right. You’ve probably never heard of the Center for Environmental Sustainability Through Insect Farming either. Don’t laugh — this center, located at the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis, just received $2.2 million from the National Science Foundation to collaborate with other universities toward the goal of developing insects as an alternative protein source.

The insects will be fed to fish, poultry and swine. But they also will be used for human food. The U.S., European Union and others already have some approval for use of certain insect proteins in food, such as the black soldier flies for animals, and crickets and mealworms for people.

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