April 5, 2023

Skeletal bio-stimulation

How chitin stimulates plant growth, quality, and stress tolerance

Part three of our series exploring the magic of chitin has arrived; and here we’re talking about chitin as a bio-stimulant.

What is a bio-stimulant?

An agricultural bio-stimulant is a compound that promotes plant ‘productivity’ in two main ways - either through improving plant growth and yield, or through improving quality and stress tolerance. This is done by improving nutrient uptake and efficiency and by stimulating natural processes of the plant.

We’ll now take a look at both of these in turn - how chitin promotes plant growth and how it improves stress tolerance.

Chitin improving plant growth

Chitin has been shown in studies to improve plant growth independently from its effects on disease control.  

The primary way in which chitin improves plant growth is through the promotion of plant growth-promoting rhizobacteria (PGPR). PGPRs are bacteria associated with plant roots that form a symbiotic relationship with the plant and have a beneficial effect on plant growth. Chitin has been shown to be a signalling molecule for these bacteria. This signalling induces PGPRs to undergo three main processes that lead to plant growth:

  1. The conversion of nitrogen gas into ammonia which can then be used by the plant as nitrogen;
  2. Breaking down the cell walls of pathogens; and
  3. Growth regulation through activating various molecules.

Additionally, chitin has been shown to improve plant growth independently of its effect on PGPRs. For example, research has shown that the application of chitin-based treatments under certain conditions unsuitable to PGPRs still leads to enhanced growth. This was displayed with orchids under aseptic conditions, tissue-cultured grapes in sterile conditions, and a type of medicinal herb in liquid bioreactors.

Chitin improving plant stress tolerance

Chitin is both a sword and a shield. Not only has it been proven to improve plant growth, it has also shown to improve a plant’s ability to resist abiotic stress (non-living factors, such as temperature and salinity). One of the most important aspects of abiotic stress tolerance, particularly in Australia, is water utilisation. In fact, water scarcity is considered the key bottleneck for food production worldwide. 

The good news? Chitin and chitin-based treatments have shown to improve water stress tolerance. In maize, chitin added to the soil improved water-stress tolerance, and chitin-derived molecules were shown to improve water-stress tolerance in wheat, rape, marjoram and sesame.

But the magic of chitin doesn’t stop there. It has also been shown to improve salt-stress, cadmium stress tolerance, heat stress tolerance, poor soil tolerance, and poor fertilisation tolerance (add head exploding emoji). 

Fly skeletons to the rescue!

We at Bardee believe in the power of chitin; and our resident superheroes, the black soldier flies (BSF), are rich in it. Everyday, our BSF-powered facility processes tonnes of food waste in a vertical farming system and produces certified-organic fertiliser and insect protein.

The husks of BSF larvae and the exoskeletons of BSFs contain high-quality chitin, and this is blended in our Superfly, Superfly Pellets and Superfly Low Odour fertiliser products. If you want a greater chitin kick, we have your needs covered with Superfly Chitin Concentrate.

If you like what you hear and think that chitin is what your garden or farm needs, check out our Superfly range here! If you have any questions or want to learn more about chitin, please feel free to reach out to our team.

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