REHOVOT, ISRAEL — Consistently higher yields were generated in a trial of biostimulant products under development by Lavie Bio Ltd., an Israeli company seeking to develop and commercialize environmentally friendly products for agricultural production.
Three product candidates — LAV211, LAV212 and LAV213 — demonstrated consistent wheat yield improvement versus control in multiple locations, varieties and conditions over a two-year period, the company said. Yields versus control fields improved by an average between 6% and 7%, with 20% improvement achieved in top performing locations. Overall, the Lavie treated fields produced greater yields than control fields 80% of the time.
Based on the results, the company said use of Lavie wheat bio-stimulant products potentially could generate $20 to $50 of incremental profit per acre for growers.
“Lavie’s biostimulant product family for spring wheat aims to supply consumers with healthier wheat while providing farmers more sustainable and productive agriculture practices,” said Ido Dor, chief executive officer of Lavie Bio. “I am pleased with our second-year field results, another indication to the strength of Lavie’s product development capabilities, that bringing us a step closer to product commercialization.”
Mr. Dor said he believes the biostimulants will be commercially viable with 6% to 7% yield improvement, adding that the company is targeting even greater gains.
While enhancing end product functionality is part of the stated objectives of Lavie Bio, the announced trial results centered on yields. Mr. Dor declined to comment on the degree to which wheat, flour or dough quality from wheat treated with the biostimulants may be enhanced by the biostimulants, but he said wheat quality was not impaired at all during the trial.
Agricultural biostimulants are compounds that operate through a different mechanism than fertilizer and are viewed as complementary to traditional crop nutrition and crop protection products. Biostimulants are meant to improve crop vigor, yields, quality and disease tolerance.
Mr. Dor said numerous biostimulants are on the market currently, derived from seaweed and numerous other sources.
“We believe what we are doing represents the next generation of the market, with improved efficacy and stability,” he said.
Lavie Bio’s products essentially are a combination of microbes that work synergistically, Mr. Dor said. The Lavie Bio treatments are compatible with organic farming.
Numerous applications methodologies have been or are being developed for the company’s products. For example, the biostimulants may be applied not long after harvest, when seed wheat has been cleaned but before it is stored for the following season. The product also may be applied to seed before planting or to drench soil after planting.
While Lavie Bio also is working on biostimulants for corn, in partnership with Corteva Inc., Mr. Dor offered an upbeat view for the future of technological advances specifically for wheat.
“If you think ahead, wheat is a great place to be,” he said. “I know not everyone agrees, and many companies try to avoid it. For growers and consumers, it is the most highly important crop. Consumers are more dominant. They care about what they eat and it impacts our buying decisions. We see potential in the future for wheat. Many seed companies are trying to do hybrid wheat in the future.”
Winter wheat versions of the product are under development, but Mr. Dor said spring wheat was selected initially for a number of mostly practical reasons.
The short duration of the spring wheat growing season was appealing as was the relatively compact growing area of North Dakota and western Canada. Additionally, Lavie Bio enjoyed earlier success in spring wheat with microbes from distant varieties of wheat. He said the company has mined more than 200 species of wheat for healthful microbes that are no longer found in current wheat varieties.
“The potential impact in spring wheat with the right microbial treatment could be quite significant,” Mr. Dor said.
He said the microbial mix in the company’s current products is “agnostic” to spring wheat variety, chosen to be compatible with the range of varieties growers select each year.
The successful spring wheat results will be followed this year by further trials, principally in the United States. These efforts, together with additional trials planned for 2020 in Canada, are aimed at generating “broader validation” to the products. Lavie Bio said it is targeting 2022 for the commercial introduction of its products.
In parallel to the field tests, the company said it has been working to increase the shelf life of its biostimulants while adjusting the formulation to offer benefits for wheat plants’ roots. Lavie described formulation and fermentation as a “critical challenge” to overcome on the road to commercialization.
Focused on the development of bio-stimulants and bio-pesticides, Lavie Bio Ltd. is one of several divisions/subsidiaries of Evogene Ltd., an agricultural biotechnology company based in Rehovot, 15 miles southeast of Tel Aviv. Other targets of the company’s businesses are focused on novel herbicides, insecticides and insect-control/disease-resistant seed traits. The company also is seeking to develop therapeutics based on microbes and small molecules in the area of immuno-oncology, multi-drug resistant organisms and gastrointestinal related disorders. The company also is developing medical grade cannabis through a plant genomic approach. For each of the businesses, a proprietary computational platform from Evogene is used to identify promising new products/approaches, also tapping into knowledge of genomics.
“The technology helps us identify and optimize microbes that can work with existing products,” Mr. Dor said. “It helps with understanding complex the interaction between microorganisms and plants, enhancing positive interactions and minimizing negative interactions.”
Lavie Bio has about 30 employees and has a branch office in St. Louis.