Use of seaweed in organic farming
The applications and use of algae in organic farming are in full swing (as in all sectors) driven by the need for new production and energy algorithms. Thus the search for natural solutions in favor of Nature is an increasingly field of analysis and research. Among the new solutions on the horizon (even if their use is not really recent) the use of algae in organic farming.
The main interest for these cryptogams derives from their contents in hormone-like substances able to chelate metals, favoring their absorption by plants. For example, their use in the case of fruit and vegetables has given greater resistance to rotting when ripe. Other studies also indicate a repellent effect on insects.
Other proven and tested uses in various parts of the world have been applied to field fertilization or to farms, as food supplements. Currently, especially in fruit-growing and organic horticulture, they are used in foliar treatments such as biostimulants, in flowering, fruit set and in times of stress.
As the improvement in plant growth is linked to the regulatory substances of this phenological phase, it is useful to use these substances naturally contained in some species of algae.
Even today, although there are several thousand species of algae, only a few species are used for the production of the many extracts used in agriculture. So an area of great interest. These algae all belong to the brown algae family. To date, many studies, in various research institutes, have been carried out to explain the mechanism of action of these products and different are the theories that have scientific foundations and that are commonly accepted. Among these mechanisms, the presence of mannitol and alginic acid helps to improve the delivery of nutrients in plants in relation to the chelating capacities of these substances. In other cases the auxins (contained in the algae) promote the development of the root system favoring the lengthening of the cells and the setting; cytokinins promote cell division; gibberellins promote cell elongation and division; betaine improves the ability of plants to withstand stress conditions.
Today the species on which the most worked and that are most used, even in commercial products, are: Ascophyllum nodosum, Macrocystis, Ecklonia maxima, Fucus, Durvillea potatorum, Laminaria and Sargassum.
Leaving aside the processes of extraction of the various active ingredients, and the methods of production and extraction, opens a wide view that must see the farms directly interested in the use of these species. As usual, we need qualified and trained personnel to prevent the use, extraction and production of algae from becoming just an unsupported commercial event and a solid scientific and therefore technical basis. In fact, the effectiveness of the products based on algae depends on the crops to which they are applied and the results can also be very different depending on the product, the crops and the methods of application used. For this reason every product and every extract needs specific guidelines, doses and timing of application.