Journal of Applied Phycology

, Volume 23, Issue 3, pp 371–393 | Cite as

Seaweed extract stimuli in plant science and agriculture

  • James S. CraigieEmail author


Both micro- and macroalgae have long been used to augment plant productivity and food production in various regions of the world through their beneficial effects when applied to soils. Interactions of algae with the soil community undoubtedly are complex and benefits are dependent on the crop and the local environmental conditions. This has resulted in much speculation as to mechanisms involved as well as the validity of the results reported. It is now 60 years since the first commercial seaweed extract was manufactured for agricultural use. These aqueous extracts allowed for the first time the direct application of soluble seaweed constituents to specific plant organs such as leaves and roots. The earlier concept that benefits of seaweeds and their extracts were due mainly to their manurial value or to their micronutrient suites is no longer tenable. Seaweeds likewise have been used for millennia as fodder supplements to improve animal nutrition and productivity. Recent research is focusing on their mode of action, specific health benefits, and the mechanisms of action in animals. Improved analytical techniques and instrumentation coupled with the use of molecular genetic tools are establishing that seaweed extracts can modify plant and animal responses at a fundamental level. It therefore seems appropriate to review key developments over the years and to remark on novel findings. A new and exciting vista has opened for seaweed extracts in both plant and animal applications.


Algae Growth hormones Pathogen resistance Animal health Polymers 



It is a distinct pleasure to thank all who have contributed to this review. Mr. Jean-Paul Deveau, President and Dr. Louis E. Deveau, Chair generously provided access to facilities and personnel of Acadian Seaplants Limited. Scientific colleagues freely contributed material and advice which I have incorporated into the presentation. I am especially indebted to: A. Backman, A.T. Critchley, F. Evans, D. Garbary, D. Hiltz, T. Karachek, B. Kennedy, Hervé Moreau, W. Neily, G. Nichols, J. Norrie, S. O’Leary, B. Prithiviraj, P. J. Roy, L. Theriault, R. Ugarte, and J. Walter. I thank two anonymous reviewers for valuable comments that improved the manuscript. The National Research Council of Canada, Institute for Marine Biosciences kindly provided facilities and library privileges.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Acadian Seaplants LimitedDartmouthCanada

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