HomeInnovationBiostimulants in olive growing, the organic revolution. Scientific review

Biostimulants in olive growing, the organic revolution. Scientific review

Biostimulants represent one of the most promising innovations in olive growing, in several respects. To stimulate the natural defense of plants - very topical in the era of Xylella fastidiosa subsp. pauca, already thorough (1,2) - as well as reduce the input and optimize the use of resources.

Experimental studies on products based on algae, microalgae and florotannins - as well as others, of animal origin - have shown appreciable results in terms of yield and quality of production (olives and extra virgin olive oil).

This approach is particularly useful also for the purpose of converting olive groves to the organic farming system. And more generally to the maintenance and development of agroecology, on this and other crops, (2) in conditions of economic sustainability.

Biostimulants, legal framework

From a legal point of view, biostimulants qualify as plant protection products. They are therefore governed by Regulation (EC) 1107/2009 and subsequent amendments. (3)

'Plant biostimulant is any product that stimulates the nutritional processes of plants, regardless of its nutrient content, with the sole purpose of improving one or more of the following characteristics of the plant or of the rhizosphere of the plant:

a) efficiency of nutrient use;
b) tolerance to abiotic stress;
c) qualitative characteristics;
d) availability of nutrients confined in the soil or in the rhizosphere. ' (EU reg. 2019/1009, article 47.1.2. See note 4)

The nature of biostimulants it can be microbial - such as mycorrhizal and non-mycorrhizal fungi, bacterial endosymbionts (eg. Rhizobium) and non-microbial (eg extracts of algae, microalgae. See notes 2,5,6,11,12). Their properties are mainly attributed to amino acids, peptides, vitamins, enzymes, hormone-like substances (e.g. phytohormones), antioxidants and / or minerals. In any case, they must meet certain requirements of composition, functionality, purity (i.e. absence or compliance with certain residue thresholds), information to professional users and / or consumers. (5)

Biostimulants in Italian olive growing

The use of biostimulants of animal origin was tested on two groups of young olive trees, at the age of 1 year (cultivar Leccino, in pot) and at the age of 2 (cultivar Moraiolo, immediately after the transplant in the field, in Umbria). By registering in both cases:

- the acceleration of the growth of the treated plants, in comparison with the comparison groups, until the completion of the vegetative development,

- the increase in the development of biomass in all parts of the tree (roots, stem, leaves, shoots). The experimentation was concluded favorably, noting the significance of the results to reduce the time in the nursery and accelerate the entry into production, favoring the conservation of the vegetative-productive balance. (7)

Algatan on olive trees affected by Xylella

The algae compound, microalgae and tannins developed by Algatan proved to be very effective in strengthening olive trees and drastically reducing the damage caused by the bacterium Xylella fastidiosa sub. fear, agent of the drying of the olive tree. (2)

Xylella has been established in Puglia since 2013 and has infected over 8.000 hectares of olive groves. (8) The authorities, however, have completely neglected the effective conservation solutions demonstrated by the biostimulants of Algatan and of the Experimental Cultures Center of Aosta (mycorrhizae. See note 1)

Biostimulants in olive groves in Spain and Tunisia

A biostimulant with algal extracts - employed in Spain out of two cultivar superintensive (Alberquina and Koroneiki) - showed the ability to replace inorganic fertilizers, conserving and even improving yields. In addition to stimulating the defense against biotic and abiotic stresses, as well as promoting the environmental sustainability of agricultural production. Its ability has been attributed to mix of polysaccharides, polyphenols, vitamins and phytohormones. (9)

Foliar administration of a mineral-based biostimulant in Tunisia, on Chemlali cultivar, in turn, highlighted significant improvements in the quality of oil olives. Measured through the various parameters of:

- lipid profiles. Increase ofoleic acid, and of the oleic / linoleic, monounsaturated / polyunsaturated ratios,

- polyphenols. Increase of the total polyphenol content. (10)

Seaweed extracts from Sinai olive trees

The treatment foliar with a biostimulant based on microalgae extracts (Scenedesmus acutus, Coelastrum proboscideum) and three types of marine algae, tested in Sinai, demonstrated the ability to improve the performance of variety olive trees koroneiki on calcareous soils with high salinity.

Spraying of the product at low concentrations (0,1%) - in the three phases of initial growth, flowering and fruit ripening - proved to be the best method for increasing growth, yield, fruit and oil quality. On a cultivar tested in decidedly adverse climatic conditions. (11)

Provisional conclusions

The use of biostimulants, especially those of algal origin, proved to be very promising for accelerating the entry into production and increasing the qualitative and quantitative production of the treated plants. Respecting the environment and the agricultural economy, thanks also to the low dilutions required.

Further evidence they are still needed to evaluate and prove the action of these products on others cultivar and geographical contexts. In the perspective of a true ecological transition, which can only be guaranteed by the organic production method, even in olive growing. (12)

Dario Dongo and Andrea Adelmo Della Penna


(1) Dario Dongo, Marina De Nobili, Guido Cortese. Xylella Fastidiosa, the solution at your fingertips. GIFTS (Great Italian Food Trade). 23.2.19/XNUMX/XNUMX, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/idee/xylella-fastidiosa-la-soluzione-a-portata-di-mano

(2) Dario Dongo, Andrea Adelmo Della Penna. Animal husbandry, algae and microalgae to prevent the use of antibiotics. Algatan. See paragraphs Microalgae for agriculture, Algatan in agriculture. GIFTS (Great Italian Food Trade). 9.9.20/XNUMX/XNUMX, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/progresso/zootecnia-alghe-e-microalghe-per-prevenire-l-uso-di-antibiotici-algatan

(3) EC Reg. 1107/2009 concerning the placing on the market of plant protection products and repealing Council Directives 79/117 / EEC and 91/414 / EEC. Consolidated text as of 27.3.21 on https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/IT/TXT/?uri=CELEX%3A02009R1107-20210327&qid=1620996789608

(4) EU Reg. 2019/1009 laying down rules relating to the making available on the market of EU fertilising products, amending Regulations (EC) No. 1069/2009 and (EC) no. 1107/2009 and repealing regulation (EC) no. 2003/2003. Consolidated text as of 25.6.19 on https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/IT/TXT/?qid=1620996476594&uri=CELEX%3A32019R1009

(5) Du Jardin (2015). Plant biostimulants: Definition, concept, main categories and regulation (review). Sci. Hortic. 196: 3-14, doi: 10.1016 / j.scienta.2015.09.021

(6) Battacharyya, D., Babgohari, MZ, Rathor, P., & Prithiviraj, B. (2015). Seaweed extracts as biostimulants in horticulture. Scientia Horticulturae, 196, 39–48. doi: 10.1016 / j.scienta.2015.09.012

(7) Leen Almadi, Andrea Paoletti, Nicola Cinosi, Elissa Daher, Adolfo Rosati, Claudio Di Vaio and Franco Famiani. (2020). A Biostimulant Based on Protein Hydrolysates Promotes the Growth of Young Olive Trees. Agriculture 10: 618, doi: 10.3390 / agriculture10120618

(8) Kottelenberg et al. (2021). Shape and rate of movement of the invasion front of Xylella fastidiosa spp. pauca in Puglia. Nature Research 11: 1061, https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-79279-x

(9) Hernández-Hernandez et al. (2019). The Use of Biostimulants in High-density Olive Growing: Quality and Production. Asian Journal of Advances in Agricultural Research 10 (4): 1-11, doi: 10.9734 / ajaar / 2019 / v10i430034

(10) Zouari et al. (2020) Olive oil quality influenced by biostimulant foliar fertilizers. Brazilian Journal of Biological Sciences 7 (15): 3-18, https://doi.org/10.21472/bjbs(2020)071501

(11) El Migeed et al. (2018) Response of olive trees (cv. Koroneiki) to algae extract sprays and its impact on growth and productivity under saline conditions. Middle East Journal of Agriculture Research 7 (1): 34-40, http://www.curresweb.com/mejar/mejar/2018/34-40.pdf

(12) Chiaiese et al. (2018). Renewable Sources of Plant Biostimulation: Microalgae as a Sustainable Means to Improve Crop Performance. Frontiers in Plant Science 9: 1782, doi: 10.3389 / fpls.2018.01782

Andrea Adelmo Della Penna

Graduated in Food Technologies and Biotechnologies, qualified food technologist, he follows the research and development area. With particular regard to European research projects (in Horizon 2020, PRIMA) where the FARE division of WIISE Srl, a benefit company, participates.

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