Building Performance with Bridgeway

Heat stress, drought and disease all have the potential to threaten crop performance, but incorporating biostimulants into the programme can help prepare crops to cope better.

That’s the advice from Stuart Sutherland, technical manager at Interagro who says biostimulants are becoming increasingly valuable tools within the wider IPM toolbox for building stronger, healthier more resilient plants less dependent on synthetic inputs. “Biostimulants offer many crucial benefits to plants when used appropriately and one of the most proven in my professional opinion, is Bridgeway — Interagro’s foliar amino acid and peptide biostimulant. It promotes healthier crops by stimulating growth, optimising resource use efficiency and crucially, it increases immunity against stressful growing conditions, something that is becoming increasingly vital to growers.”

Amino acid advantages

So what are the advantages of an amino acid-based formula? Amino acid biostimulants can play a crucial role in improving plant health because they influence so many physiological and metabolic processes. They are fundamentally the building blocks of proteins, which are essential for the structure and function of plant cells, enzymes and other biochemical processes. “In fact, amino acids influence virtually every process within plants.

This includes photosynthesis enhancement, nutrient uptake and transport, hormone regulation for plant growth and development, root growth and architecture, stress tolerance and disease resistance,” explains Stuart. In essence, Bridgeway provides high concentrations of all the amino acids plants need leading to more efficient and resilient growth.

“The problem is, whilst plants can synthesise the amino acids they need – from nitrate in the soil and glucose from photosynthesis – it costs the plant a lot of energy,” continues Stuart. “In stressful growing conditions these amino acids are not even readily available to the plant, which has implications for crop growth, coping and recovering from stress and its ability to resist pest and pathogens.

“Supplementing crops with Bridgeway at the critical stages of crop growth – when they are in highest demand – provides the immediate supply of amino acids crops need, when they need it. This also enables the plant to put more of its energy into optimising growth and development, which is key to securing the higher yields and quality you may be aiming for,” says Stuart.

Trialled and tested

“Bridgeway has been researched and trialled extensively in a wide range of crops over the years, with work based around two key objectives. One, proving enhanced resilience where Bridgeway is included in the programme and two, determining the optimum timing for best results,” says Stuart. “It’s a programme we continually invest in year after year.”

Resilient and ready

A resilient crop is one which is better able to capture water, nutrients and sunlight, explains Stuart, and that’s exactly what the research and trials show can be achieved using Bridgeway. “This all starts with building a good root system early in the life of the plant, and rooting research at Nottingham University has shown Bridgeway to be one of the strongest stimulants of its type, increasing root mass by an average of 52% over nine seperate studies.”

What’s more the trials revealed that Bridgeway helps plants develop significantly bigger root systems when the resources they need are in short supply, explains Stuart. “The work looked at the effect of Bridgeway on plants when nutrients were withdrawn, water was reduced and plants were subjected to heat stress. Plants treated with Bridgeway grew significantly bigger root systems (up to +49%) than untreated plants subjected to the same stresses, which also led to significantly bigger plants – up to 27% more shoot mass.

“Crucially for growers, it means applying Bridgeway to plants early in the growing season will help create more resourceful deeprooted plants – better able to scavenge when moisture and nutrients are in short supply – to feed the growing plant. With increasingly hot and dry conditions now becoming the norm, it can be a real game-changer for growers.” On farm this has translated into higher macro and micronutrient uptake and improved resilience. It’s also a way to help reduce reliance on synthetic inputs.

Getting more from your nitrogen 

Studies at the universty conducted in 2022 showed that reducing nitrogen beyond 60% can reduce root and shoot growth but Bridgeway helps plants compensate. “Plants at growth stage 12-14 were fertilised with varying levels of nitrogen, 100% N being equivalent to 80kg/ha. At 60% and even at 30% N, Bridgeway treated plants had 45% more roots and over 30% more shoots, compared with control plants at 100% N. They also had up to 18% more nitrogen in their leaves and chlorophyll levels were increased significantly at all N rates,” says Stuart.

But does this translate in the field?

“Yes it does,” says Stuart. At Barworth Research Ltd in 2022, applying Bridgeway 2 l/ha at GS12-14 in spring barley increased yield by 0.76 t/ha at 100% N and 0.46 t/ha at 50% N. At the 50% N rate Bridgeway actually brought the yield closer to the untreated 100% N rate.

Stress-busting resistance

As well as the drought and sustenance benefits afforded by enhanced rooting, amino acids play a pivotal role in stress responses by acting as osmoprotectants, helping plants to cope with various stress conditions such as extreme temperature, drought and salinity. “These benefits come through year after year in trials,” says Stuart.

“Under heat stress, root crops like potatoes slow tuber bulking as they cannot take up water faster enough to keep cool and to maintain photosynthesis. Plot digs in potato trials with CMI and Dyson Farming Research, shows Bridgeway maintains the rate of bulking, leading to significantly higher yields as a result.”

In all trials conducted in 2017, 2018, 2019, 2021 and 2023, Bridgeway increased yields. “In all trials, applications around the onset of tuber bulking have always increased yields significantly – with two or three applications (each two weeks later) optimal for margin over input cost,” explains Stuart. “In the 2023 trials this translated into a 28% yield increase compared to control plots.”

So what about other root crops such as sugar beet? In replicated field trials significant yield increases have been achieved from applying Bridgeway early, from 2-4 true leaves (TL), says Stuart. ”In stress years, multiple applications can be beneficial to yield as shown below.”

Stress-busting recoveries 

As well as preparing crops to tolerate stressful growing conditions, it’s Bridgeway’s amazing ability to help crops overcome stress, even when on the brink, that is perhaps even more impressive, believes Stuart. “We got our first insight into what Bridgeway could do back in 2017 when poor sprayer hygiene almost killed a crop of sugar beet (right) – the herbicide damage was that severe.

But an application of Bridgeway, applied as a last resort to save the crop, stimulated new crowns to grow, recovering crop health and yield. It was quite miraculous,” says Stuart. Since that time, the stress-busting benefits of Bridgeway have continued to help growers.

Primed to fight disease

While Bridgeway is an excellent fire brigade treatment, applying it to crops early in the season to build high performing self-resilient plants is the best course of action where possible, with trials and farmer feedback having shown that Bridgeway can indeed help plants better fight off infections.

“If we’re thinking about prevention in wheat, T0 is a really good time to start supporting your plant’s own defence system,” says Stuart. “It really is best to go early to prime plants. Various trials have also supported this, showing a reduction in septoria when Bridgeway was applied at T0 as shown in these examples right.

“Co-applications with fungicide at T1 and/ or T2 has also shown benefits, sometimes significant. “In spring barley, evidence suggests early applications are optimal for reducing ramularia infection, though we are doing more work on this.

In veg crops, early applications are key to build defences from day one, particularly as there are less synthetic crop protection inputs to fall back on,” explains Stuart. So how does all of this impact yield? “If crops are taking up more nutrients, fighting off disease better and are able to keep going even during stress periods, then the natural result is going to be better yields,” says Stuart.

“But you have to time applications to what you are trying to achieve for best result and where the risk factors are. “Going back to the beginning, the trend now is all about getting more from less, and the simple addition of a biostimulant like Bridgeway offers the potential to help growers get significantly more from their inputs and crops, despite the challenging climate many find themselves in. For that, you need to go early to build the plant, and then top up ahead of extreme stress periods.

“While biostimulants are by no means a silver bullet, products like Bridgeway are a proven, scientifically backed, small investment which could result in potentially huge returns.”