The 4th International Seaweed Symposium in Tasmania in February 2023 showcased promising research on the benefits of red seaweed extracts for agricultural crops. Notably, the data points toward a 10% increase in yield and a more than 50% reduction in rot. These figures have profound implications, potentially affecting crop markets by billions of dollars.

Scott W. Mattner from Vsica Research Company focused his presentation on the impact of seaweed extracts from Durvillaea potatorum and Ascophyllum nodosum (Seasol brand) on strawberry yield and post-harvest rot. According to an article by Mattner et al., 2023, the treatment increased secondary root density by up to 22% and marketable yields by 8-19%. The research also indicated a significant decrease in the incidence and severity of post-harvest rots, by 52% and 87% respectively.

Sea6energy engineer Girish TR then presented discussed their red seaweed Kappaphycus extract product, AGFORT, and its broad-spectrum benefits for plant immunity. According to Roy et al., 2022, the formulations led to elevated levels of defensive hormones salicylic acid (SA), jasmonic acid (JA), and cytokinin (CK). Importantly, these benefits were not limited to rice; the average reduction of bacterial blight across multiple crops was up to 60%. The upregulated genes included those associated with hormone pathways such as PR1, PDF1.2, and ARR4.

Finally, David Cahill’s presentation covered research on brown algae extracts’ effects on defense-related genes in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana as well as tomato and sweet chestnut. This more academic study showed that seaweed extracts from Ascophyllum nodosum and Durvillaea potatorum upregulated key systemic acquired resistance genes and inhibited pathogen growth in inoculated roots, based on a publication by Islam et al., 2021.

Finally, David Cahill’s presentation reported on a study that used brown algae extracts Ascophyllum nodosum and Durvillaea potatorum to influence gene activity in Arabidopsis thaliana, tomato (Solanum lycopersicum), and sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa). Based on publication by Islam et al., 2021., the research found common upregulation of systemic acquired resistance (SAR)-related genes, including PR1, PR5, and NPR1, and auxin-associated genes.

A 10% increase in crop yield for tomato, rice, and strawberry could have multifaceted implications. Economically, based on 2021 figures, the global market value for tomatoes is $190 billion, for rice is $450 billion, and for strawberries is $25 billion; a 10% yield uptick could add billions to these numbers, directly boosting farmer revenue and reducing input costs. Ecologically, this yield increase could enable more efficient land use, with tomatoes currently grown on 4.8 million hectares, rice on 163 million hectares, and strawberries on 300,000 hectares worldwide, thus aiding conservation efforts. Water usage could also see substantial reductions, especially for water-intensive crops like rice, which requires 2,500 liters of water per kilogram. Additionally, with agriculture accounting for about 11% of global greenhouse gas emissions, increased yield could reduce the carbon footprint per unit of crop. Socially, a yield increase enhances food security and potentially impacts labor markets.