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‘Snake oil’ biostimulants do not exist!

I have been working in the field of biostimulants for well over a decade, and one thing that has slowly grown to annoy me greatly is people continuing to talk about snake oil products. Now to say that these products do not exist might seem ridiculous; you can probably real off a list of products you think fall into this category straight away. However, I hope to convince you that not only are they not snake oil products, but that you should never talk about snake oil biostimulant products!

Each one of the biostimulants you may think is a snake oil contains organic carbon (and maybe some other plant nutrients). Even literal snake oil extracted from reptiles will contain this. When added to the soil these products will have a benefit to the plant and the soil by adding nutrients and organic matter. So what we really mean when we talk about snake oil products is that we believe that they do not work as well as the company selling them is stating, or that they are inferior to a number of other products on the market. That is very different to saying they have no benefits at all. So please be truthful, especially people working for other biostimulant companies; say you believe your product is better, there is no shame in that! Many countries and regions have registration processes for biostimulants now. If this requires efficacy data then there will, in theory, be a need to show that the product has a net positive effect on the crop. However, there will always be some stinkers that get onto the market, and other products that out perform these. Hopefully the best products will outcompete the stinkers in the long run, even if the stinkers have a large marketing budget behind them.

So why should you not talk about snake oil biostimulants? It is not just because I believe they do not exist, it is in doing so you continue to smear the whole field of biostimulants. If we continue to mention there are snake oils in our industry it smears a little bit of excrement on all of us, even those with great products. If we reframe those bad products we would otherwise call snake oil as ‘inferior’ then we can help mature the sector as it grows rapidly in the next decade.

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