With more and more scrutiny on the use of chemicals within agriculture, one Lincolnshire farmer is urging growers to consider a seaweed-based biostimulant as a way of increasing yields and reducing stress in the crop.

Marcus Palmer, who owns Rose Villa Farm, in Spalding, grows potatoes, sugar beat cereals and peas and since 2005 he has been the sole UK importer and distributor of Algifol, a completely natural biostimulant.

This product is a concentrated brown algae, gathered from the North Atlantic, dried and refined to maximise its trace elements, vitamins, enzymes, amino acids, carbohydrates, polyuronides and growth-regulating plant hormones.

"I have been promoting the use of natural products as a way of improving crop yield for more than 16 years, but it is only in the last few years that people have really taken notice," he said.

"The government has really put the spotlight on removing potentially hazardous chemicals from the watercourse in recent years and these days you can't open a magazine without reading about the latest consultation.

"I came across Algifol in 2005 and as many of the large chemical companies were promoting the benefits bio-stimulants, I was curious about whether or not a product derived from seaweed could help potatoes.

"I was open-minded, and when I heard that seaweed is the fastest growing plant on the planet, I thought it might be worth investigating further.

"In that first year we saw our yields and quality improve compared to our control area. The rest as they say is history, we have seen improvements in all crops since then.”

As well as increasing yields, it can help lower the carbon footprint of the crop by improving fertiliser uptake through better rooting and improved photosynthesis, thus reducing leaching and losses to the atmosphere.

Marcus was so impressed with the effects on his crops that he approached the manufacturers, NeoMed-Pharma, in Germany, to see if he could sell it to other growers.

"The farmers who have used Algifol are generally really happy with the effects. It is completely natural, improves yields, reduces stress caused by droughts, heat and heavy rainfall, and is incredibly cost-effective with just one litre being enough to spray 1 ha."

Applied by knapsack, trailed or mounted sprayers, the majority of UK customers are growing potatoes, oilseed rape and sugar beet. A 1 litre can costs £21.99 plus VAT.