Journal of Applied Phycology

, Volume 26, Issue 1, pp 465–490 | Cite as

Plant biostimulants: a review on the processing of macroalgae and use of extracts for crop management to reduce abiotic and biotic stresses

  • H. S. Shekhar SharmaEmail author
  • Colin Fleming
  • Chris Selby
  • J. R. Rao
  • Trevor Martin


A biostimulant is an organic material that, when applied in small quantities, enhances plant growth and development such that the response cannot be attributed to the application of traditional plant nutrients. This review is aimed at highlighting developments in the processing of macroalgae for agricultural biostimulants (AB), summarising the biologically active components of brown macroalgae and examining the factors supporting the use of macroalgal AB for managing abiotic and biotic stresses in crop plants. The policy drivers supporting the use of macroalgal-derived ABs in agriculture are also emphasised. We examine the use of macroalgal ABs in crop production and evaluated the benefits of seed priming, foliar application, soil drenches and hydroponic treatments. The use of macroalgal ABs on crop plants can generate multiple benefits with reported effects including enhanced rooting, higher crop and fruit yields, freezing, drought and salt tolerance, enhanced photosynthetic activity and resistance to fungi, bacteria and virus. ABs can be applied as an alternative, or used in conjunction with synthetic crop protection products and plant growth regulators, and may have a role in maintaining crop production levels, health and quality in the future when many active ingredients will be lost to the industry due to changes in European Union regulations. Worldwide, macroalgae remain largely unexploited, we highlight some of the future research and development priorities.


Agricultural biostimulant Crop protection Plant pathogen Nematode 



This review has received funding from Fusion (InterTrade Ireland, Newry and BioAtlantis Ltd, Tralee, Ireland) and the European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement no. 312117 (BIOFECTOR).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • H. S. Shekhar Sharma
    • 1
    Email author
  • Colin Fleming
    • 1
  • Chris Selby
    • 1
  • J. R. Rao
    • 1
  • Trevor Martin
    • 1
  1. 1.Plant Health and Environmental Protection BranchAgri-Food and Biosciences InstituteBelfastUK

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