As a key link in the crop protection sector, seed treatment is important to seed health and nutrition, as well as to general crop growth and late-stage harvesting. Leading companies and many researchers in the industry have been constantly improving and innovating all aspects of seed treatment technology, although this concept has been popular for many years.
AgroPages has also been monitoring the sector’s innovative technologies and products. Through collecting information, we have analyzed the industry’s new trends and innovative technologies. For example, many companies have recently introduced new seed treatment products that can control nematodes, and some companies have made breakthroughs in seed coating formulation and adjuvant technologies related while new revolutionary innovative technologies have been introduced using electronically treated seeds to eradicate disease. AgroPages recently interviewed relevant companies in the industry and gained a deeper understanding of their innovative technologies.
Controlling nematodes a constant concern in seed treatment
Parasitic nematodes are a major class of plant pathogens that infect various crops causing various nematode diseases. They are characterized by being well concealed and are difficult to diagnose and control with chemical treatments, posing a serious threat to global agricultural production.
Nematodes cause average losses of around US$200 per hectare to soybean, cotton, sugarcane and coffee crops in Brazil. In 2015, the Brazilian Nematological Society estimated the country's annual economic losses caused by nematodes at $10 billion, making this group of pests accountable for the largest economic loss in the agricultural industry, even greater than soybean rust.
Nematodes are underground pests, so they are harder to prevent and control than ground pests. Therefore, seed treatment is an ideal method and research on related products has been conducted for many years. More research projects during periods of harvesting have also been conducted recently compared to previous years, and many reports on various new products have been published. For example, in April this year, IHARA introduced CERTEZA N (350.0 g/ L thiophanate-methyl + 52.5 g/L fluazinam) in Brazil, the first fungicidal seed treatment product capable of controlling nematodes in soybean and corn. The solution is a pioneering seed treatment fungicide that has the exclusive UHPS (Ultra High Performance Sticker) technology in its formulation, which ensures better adhesion to seeds to prevent it from being washed away by rain.
Helena released its latest soybean seed treatment, “Seed Shield Max Beans,” which combines four fungicides with four modes of action, to control early-season insects and soilborne diseases, such as Pythium, Phytophthora and Rhizoctonia.
In May, Americot introduced “CottolyST Premier,” which protects against root-knot and reniform nematodes. Nufarm Americas announced the U.S. EPA approval of Trunemco, a new seed-applied nematode management technology that provides higher yields and ensures less nematode damage in soybeans, cotton and corn.
AgroPages contacted Tom Kroll (Manager of Seed Treatment Products and Technical Services at Nufarm) to learn more about the functions and strengths of Trunemco.
Trunemco is a patented seed-treatment technology that utilizes plant physiology, activating natural nematode barriers that optimize protection. Its biochemical and microbial actives provide a dual defense mechanism, both internal and external, against nematode feeding and establishment.
“Trunemco is a unique nematicide that covers both chemical and eco-friendly niches in the nematicide sector,” Kroll said.
Chemical nematicides, such as abamectin (Avicta) are known for their control consistency, enabling them to perform under a wide range of environmental conditions. However, the downside of many chemical nematicides is their toxicity. Avicta requires restrictive protective equipment during application.
Tioxazafen (NemaStrike), a systematic broad-spectrum seed-treatment nematicide developed by Monsanto, has a novel mechanism of action and excellent resistance to cyst nematodes, root-knot nematodes and Reniform nematode, and can protect crop roots from damage. However, its current formulation can cause skin sensitivity issues while Fluopyram (Ilevo) can cause a phytotoxic response in young soybean plants.
Most eco-friendly products have not exhibited any of these problems, but most biologicals are sensitive to different environments and perform inconsistently.
Trunemco is a unique chemical product that occurs naturally and has not exhibited the toxic responses noted in many chemicals because of its eco-friendly nature, but it still has the performance consistency of a chemical product.
Trunemco fully employs an additional biological eco-friendly strategy through the inclusion of a biological entity, Bacillus amyloliquefaciens, which affects nematodes by colonizing roots and establishing a barrier that stops them from invading. Trunemco is applied at a 0.3 oz/100 lb seed rate, which is relatively low compared to many other nematicides.
“Trying to develop a nematicide is a tricky business. Creating a product that controls nematodes but is not toxic to plants, users or the environment is a difficult balance. The product must be effective and stable in formula form, in the can, on seeds and in the soil to ensure long-term effectiveness. The cost of development and production must be also be offset by the product’s potential value in the market,” Kroll stated to AgroPages.
Trunemco has been approved by 28 states in the United States (US) and more state registrations are in progress. The product will be available for sale beginning of fall in 2019.
Innovative products in formulations and adjuvants
As a type of seed treatment technology with unique actions, seed coating agents connects the active ingredients of pesticides to the surface of seeds through an adjuvant agent, such as a film-forming agent, preventing various seed-borne and soil-borne diseases and insect pests. Such products are key to developing improved varieties of crops, precision sowing, and increasing production and income.
At present, the active ingredients of pesticides commonly used in seed coatings belong to few varieties, and in recent years, the pace of new pesticide development has slowed down while the number of new pesticides suitable for seed treatment is even scarcer. Therefore, the development of seed coating agents has gradually evolved from compound combination innovations to formulation-oriented innovations and application-oriented innovations, such as microcapsule seed coating agents, nano seed coating agents, nutrient seed coating agents, stress, drought, cold, salt and alkali-resistant seed coating agents, anti-falling seed coating agents, regulating growth seed coating agents, and other multi-functional seed coating agents. Seed coating agents that can be applied on herbs, flowers, vegetables and other high value-added crops must also be prioritized.
Mindleader's microcapsule seed treatment agent
The microencapsulation of seed coating agents is an important development. Producing microcapsules in seed treatment dosage form not only improves seed safety but it also the stability of pesticide active ingredients in the soil, prolonging the release time of active ingredients and concurrently controlling pests and diseases for longer periods, significantly improving the effectiveness and safety of pesticides.
Beijing Mindleader Agroscience Co., Ltd. (Mindleader) has always prioritized the development and innovation of seed coating products. Two of the company’s current products, Zhongweishi (a seed treatment suspension concentrate of 27% of metalaxyl-M, clothianidin and prochloraz nantokite) and Miaodeyi (a seed treatment suspension concentrate of thiram, carboxin and thiamethoxam) have received positive feedback from users.
Liu Runfeng (Director of the Mindleader R&D Center) told AgroPages that Mindleader is also at the forefront of the industry in the theoretical innovation and industrialization of microcapsules. There are few microcapsule products produced and marketed, so Mindleader made bold a decision and combined microcapsule technology with seed coating agents. It also launched a project to develop a microcapsule seedtreatment suspension concentrate of 25% clothianidin, fludioxonil, and metalaxyl-M, and another microcapsule seed-treatment suspension concentrate of 15% clothianidin, lambda-cyhalothrin, and fludioxonil. These developments solved the issues of the rapid degradation of metalaxyl-M in soil and the phytotoxicity of lambda-cyhalothrin during seed dressing by utilizing microcapsule technology to ensure long-term slow-release, through the encapsulation of microcapsules and maintaining the effects of clothianidin and fludioxonil over longer periods of over 70 days.
Through these two projects, Mindleader successfully applied to join a key national research and development project, titled, "Seed, Seedling and Soil Treatment Technology and Supporting Equipment Research and Development." As one of the participating units in the sub-project, titled, "New Dosage Forms and New Products of Long-Acting SlowRelease Chemical Pesticide, Seed and Seedling Treatment" or “Sub-Subject No.: 2017YFD0201603,” the company has conducted relevant research and experiments and made a major breakthrough by continuously assessing the best formulas and optimizing the preparation process.
At present, the final research reports on bench-scale experiments related to a microcapsule seed-treatment suspension concentrate of 25% clothianidin, fludioxonil, and metalaxyl-M, and a microcapsule seed-treatment suspension concentrate of 15% clothianidin, lambdacyhalothrin, and fludioxonil have been completed, and many pilot-scale experiments have been conducted on a microcapsule seed-treatment suspension concentrate of 15% clothianidin, lambda-cyhalothrin, and fludioxonil. Based on microcapsule morphology, physical stability and release rate, the adaptability of various preparation methods to different active ingredients was also studied, and the best preparation methods for each product were determined while the differences in performance of various preparation methods in the field were explored. Both products use highefficiency degradable polymer as their film-forming agent. After coating, seed surface was not only smooth and even but also had a low bond-failure rate. The safe coating was not easily washed off and did not fade in paddy fields.
The results of various matching and screening tests, indoor biological activity tests, field effectiveness tests and residue tests conducted over two years in three areas showed that, compared to ordinary seed treatment suspension agents, seed treatment microcapsule suspension concentrates are more effective and have higher residual effects. Both products are expected to be available in the market in 2020.
Nanjing GoodAgro: When seed coating agent meets biostimulant
Nanjing GoodAgro Co., Ltd. (GoodAgro) was established in 1995. In 2001, it began exporting agrochemical product formulations and is now a leading Chinese pesticide formulation manufacturer.
GoodAgro is the first pesticide manufacturer in China to utilize leading biostimulating products from multinational companies. Biostimulatants promote growth in roots and seedlings, stimulate overall crop growth, reduce stress caused by low temperatures and drought, resist pests and diseases, improve drug efficiency, enhance soil quality and reduce pesticide residue in soil. By creatively applying biostimulants in the seed treatment of rice, wheat, cotton, peanuts, soybeans and other crops, GoodAgro’s products stand out among Chinese seed coating products and are recognized and praised by the market. Its suspension concentrates combining seed coating with biostimulants include 600g/ L imidacloprid suspension concentrate for seed coating in cotton and wheat; 48% thiamethoxam suspension concentrate for seed coating in corn, rice and wheat; 400g/L thiram and carboxin suspension concentrate for seed coating in cotton; 2.5% fludioxonil suspension concentrate for seed coating in rice and corn; 30g/L suspension concentrate for seed coating in wheat; 60g/L tebuconazole suspension concentrate for seed coating in corn; and 62.5g/L mefenoxam and fludioxonil suspension concentrate for seed coating in rice and soybean.
Rice and wheat are excellent in seedling stage after using a seed coating agent to which biostimulant is added.
The advantages offered by GoodAgro in the formulation technology and production process of seed coating agents include:
● Controlling particle size distribution: Controlling particle size distribution is an important prerequisite for improving the safety of coating agents and maintaining the color of the coating. It also ensures that each coated seed is evenly covered by the agent. Different from suspension concentrates used for field spraying, coating agents adhere to stricter requirements in terms of particle size distribution. We have adopted worldleading advanced turbo pin sanding technology and cold chain processing technology, with a particle size control index is D90<2-3μm, D50< about 1μm, reaching or close to leading international standards. The product has a fine particle size, good dispersion, large specific surface area, coating evenness and wide spreadability.
● Coating agent formula: The rheology of coating agent production must be ensured, and the rheology of seed coating agents used after storage and the seed coating itself must also be solved. Even high-content varieties, such as imidacloprid 600g /L suspension concentrates for seed coating and 48% thiamethoxam suspension concentrates for seed coating, have low viscosity, thin appearance, good pourability, and good leveling properties during coating.
● We use a special color paste that meets the same standards as the products of multinational companies. Its warning color use ratio creates a coating coloring effect that customers are satisfied with.
● We use an imported film-forming agent, so after coating, seeds have a low bond-failure rate, good breathability, and good coating fastness, ensuring that the coating does easily wash off.
● We use imported biostimulants in seed coating agents to stimulate seed vitality, so seedlings emerge quickly and evenly with good strength. The seeds, after coating, are highly resistant.
WangMaoqin, Chairman of GoodAgro, told AgroPages, “At present, the application of biostimulants in suspension concentrates for seed coating in the pesticide industry has attracted more and more attention from pesticide manufacturers while the illegal addition of plant growth regulators, which are listed as pesticides, in seed coating agents has become a concern. The Chinese government's policy on pesticide application reduction also encouraged a rise in the number of seed coating product registrations. That is because seed coating agents can control pests and diseases at the seedling and growth stages, reducing the amount of pesticides required. In addition, because of the lower technical requirements and risks associated with seed coating agents, profits are usually higher than other types of pesticides, therefore, drawing considerable attention from pesticide manufacturers. In recent years, the annual market growth rate of seed coating agents is much higher than other pesticide formulations.”
Dow’s POWERBLOX™ Filmer-17 Film Forming Agent
Flowable concentrate for seed treatment (FSC) is a pesticide formulation with film-forming property for seed treatment.
Appearance of the coated seeds
with the FSC containing POWERBLOX™
Filmer -17 Film Forming Agent
Film forming agent is an important component in FSC. At present, commonly used film forming agent in the market include polyvinyl alcohol (PVA), methyl cellulose, poly acrylates and other polymers with bonding and film forming properties. However, the polymers with higher bonding properties usually have lower film strength, poorer seed flow ability, less uniform appearance. Conversely, the polymers with higher film strength usually have lower adhesion strength, and easier to fall off from the seed surface; the hydrophilic polymers are easy to be dissolved in water, and the hydrophobic polymers often have negative influence on seed germination. This causes some of the current FSC products in the market still have some performance defects, such as high expulsion rate, poor water resistance and so on. In response, Dow developed a safe polymer dispersion for FSC, POWERBLOX™ Filmer-17 Film Forming Agent.
Ji Jing, Technical Service & Development, Industrial Solutions Asia Pacific, Dow Inc. told AgroPages that POWERBLOX™ Filmer-17 is a safe, high-performance film forming agent that can be used in high-quality FSC formulation. We used it in a 30% thiamethoxam FSC formulation, and coated the corn seeds. It can provide a film on the seeds with uniform appearance and extensive coating coverage. The coated seeds had excellent water resistance, and low attrition rate. The flow ability of the seeds was good. The germination result also showed that POWERBLOX™ Filmer-17 had no negative influence on seed germination.
Water resistance is required for seeds’ coating, especially for the seeds in paddy field, such as rice seeds. Good water resistance of coat avoids the loss of active ingredients during seed immersion and crop growth process. Because of the balanced hydrophilic-hydrophobic property of POWERBLOX™ Filmer-17 Film Forming Agent, it can provide excellent water resistance, and no negative influence on seed germination.
Electronic Seed Treatment Methods Expected to Completely Replace Chemical Methods
An innovative technology is emerging to replace traditional seed treatment methods using chemicals. The treatment of seeds through electrons is based on the biocidal effect of low energy electrons. Not only are the pathogens transmitted by seeds exterminated, but there is also perennial protection, as there is the interruption of the chain of infection by the death of harmful microorganisms, such as bacteria and viruses.
The technology that sounds magic is from the Fraunhofer FEP in Germany, a subsidiary of the Fraunhofer Association (in German: Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft). The Fraunhofer Association, established on March 26, 1949, is the largest applied science research institution in Germany and Europe as well. The association has 69 research institutes in Germany with approximately 25,000 employees. The Fraunhofer Association is a public-interest, non-profit research institution that develops new technologies, new products, and new processes for enterprises, especially small and medium-sized enterprises, and assists enterprises in solving organizational and management problems in their own innovation and development.
Fraunhofer FEP works on innovative solutions in the fields of vacuum coating, surface treatment as well as organic semiconductors. The core competences electron beam technology, sputtering and plasma-activated deposition, high-rate PECVD as well as technologies for the organic electronics and IC/system design provide a basis for these activities. Thus Fraunhofer FEP offers a wide range of possibilities for research, development and pilot production.
We contacted Mr. André Weidauer, project manager of Fraunhofer FEP, and asked him to further introduce this innovative seed treatment technology.
“Fraunhofer FEP has developed a technology for chemical free seed treatment for killing of seed borne pathogens like spores, fungi, viruses and bacteria. This environmental friendly, purely physical disinfection of seed, bases on the biocidal effect of accelerated electrons,” Weidauer told AgroPages.
Electrons are a versatile tool for numerous applications in all fields of industry. Beside the known and established processes in medicine and pharma the electron treatment of seed became more and more important. The penetration depth of the electrons into every single seed grain can be adjusted via the kinetic energy of the impinging electrons. Thus, the sterilizing effect can be restricted to the surface, pericarp and tegument, without affecting the seed embryo inside the seed grain.
Fraunhofer FEP developed a technology that allows to treats seed in air in a continuous process. Thus, three large plants with throughputs up to 30 tons of cereals per hour were constructed and successfully established in Germany. Large field tests, among others by federal institutes, shows the success and comparability in field yield to conventional seed dressings, without the disadvantages of chemical treatment, like the environmental effects, dressing dust and the high costs of the chemicals. Further advantages of this technology are e.g. the fact that farmers work waste free because they can feed the seeds they have not drilled to the animals. The use of this modern technology offers consumer protection at its highest level and is also suitable and approved for organic farming.
“Fraunhofer FEP and its partners have successfully entered the German seed market with this technology. The seed producers operating the three pilot machines will produce more than 20,000 tons of cereal seed only in Germany in this year. We are confident to transfer this technology into further countries in the next few years. There are request from potential users from all over the world. There is a worldwide demand for alternative environmental friendly technologies,” said Weidauer.
Finally, Wang Maoqin, Chairman of GoodAgro, gave us a vision for the future innovation and development of the global seed treatment industry:
New pesticide active ingredients, such as chlorantraniliprole, cyantraniliprole, clothianidin, thiacloprid, dinotefuran, pyraclostrobin, meconazole, trifloxystrobin, thifluzamide, sedaxane, fluxapyroxad, isotianil, phenamacril, and benziothiazolinone, will join the camp of seed coating agents.
The multi-component compounding seed coating agents, such as the ternary compounding of the fungicide and insecticide, will become a trend. This will expand the insecticidal and fungicidal spectrum and improve the functionality of the seed coating agent.
The use of new adjuvant promotes varieties and quality of seed coating agents.
Microcapsule technology, nanotechnology, and biotechnology have begun to be applied to seed coating agents, so as to improve the activity, persistence, safety and stress resistance of seed coating agents.
If your company also has new seed treatment technology or product you have interestes to share, please feel free to contact AgroPages.
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This article was initially published in AgroPages '2019 Market Insight' magazine. Download the PDF version of the magazine to read more articles.