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VICTRATO®: A New Seed Treatment Tackling the Hidden Threat to Yieldsqrcode

Jul. 24, 2023

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Jul. 24, 2023

Syngenta Seedcare
Switzerland  Switzerland

1.jpgWith plant-parasitic nematodes accounting for up to 15 percent of global yield losses, Syngenta Crop Protection Seedcare has launched VICTRATO®, a novel seed treatment for row crops with an outstanding environmental and safety profile.

Syngenta Crop Protection Seedcare unveiled VICTRATO® in 2022. It took about a decade to identify a new chemical class, optimize it and develop a single, potent compound that could be delivered to growers. 

A novel chemistry containing TYMIRIUM® technology, VICTRATO® is a seed treatment offering growers a powerful combination of nematode and disease control. Not only does VICTRATO® deliver best in-class plant-parasitic nematode control but also provides excellent upside activity against key soil borne diseases, especially Fusarium. These often occur in complex with nematodes. So it delivers a technology growers can rely on to secure their yield in infested fields. 

But few farmers are aware of the damage caused by plant-parasitic nematodes, making them a hidden threat to crop yields globally.

Victrato_hex_image.jpgNematodes: the facts

Plant-parasitic nematodes are microscopic, transparent organisms that live below ground in the water film around soil particles. The largest plant- parasitic nematode is in fact just 11 mm long while others are much smaller. That makes them invisible to the naked eye.

This is much to the advantage of the plant-parasitic nematode, but it presents a huge disadvantage to farmers.

Unlike beneficial nematodes, which are an important bioindicator of soil health, plant-parasitic nematodes are described by nematologists as being ‘out of sight, out of mind’. Research, however, indicates farmers should be more aware of the threat they present to yields.

Globally, plant-parasitic nematodes are estimated to be responsible for between 10 and 15 percent of yield losses. Depending on the crop, pest population density and the species feeding on the crop, yield losses can be far greater.

″Plant-parasitic nematodes and soil-borne diseases are a hidden and underestimated cause of crop damage. In fact, we should view plant-parasitic nematodes as ‘the hidden enemy’,″ says Professor Driekie Fourie, Technical Product Lead, Syngenta Africa, Middle East.

Widespread across the globe and considered the most numerous organisms on Earth, more than 1 million species of nematode exist, though only about 30,000 have been identified. This ubiquitous, diverse group of organisms occupy a wide range of niches in freshwater, marine, and terrestrial environments.

Although damaging plant-parasitic genera only constitute 10 percent of total terrestrial nematode communities, the total global value of crop losses to plant-parasitic nematodes is estimated at US$125 billion annually. 

In 2013, nematologists around the world created a list of the top 10 most economically important plant-parasitic nematode groups. The top three were: root-knot nematodes (Meloidogyne); cyst nematodes (Globodera and Heterodera); and lesion nematodes (Pratylenchus).

The ‘big give-away’

Given global pressures on food security and the fact that 40 percent of yields around the world are lost to pests and diseases, plant-parasitic nematodes represent a significant challenge for growers and our food system. 

Yet it is common for farmers dealing with a plant-parasitic nematode infestation to misdiagnose the cause of crop damage. Above soil level, the symptoms of an attack are non-specific but look similar to nutrient deficiency or waterlogging. Crops wilt, appear chlorotic and suffer stunted growth. The symptoms can also be confused with other soil-borne pathogens, such as fungal bacteria or viruses. 

This often results in farmer resources devoted to rectifying it, such as effort, time and inputs, being wasted.

″The ‘big give-away’ is how we describe the part of the crop yield that farmers unknowingly ‘give away’ to plant-parasitic nematodes. It’s all because farmers don’t know about the threat plant-parasitic nematodes pose,″ says Driekie.

She adds, ″When farmers see patches of poor growth, they must immediately think of nematodes.″


Identifying nematode damage

Not all nematodes are a problem for farmers. On the contrary, beneficial nematodes are to be welcomed as an important part of the soil microbiome. This contrasts with plant-parasitic nematodes, which pose a threat to the crops on which they feed. 

The parasitic group has a stylet in the upper part of its head (think of a hollow needle). At root level, it thrusts its stylet into and out of the plant cell wall and once inside the plant cell it releases enzymes. These liquidise the content of the plant cell, making it more easily digestible. The resulting content is drawn back through the hollow stylet. This is how the organism feeds.

Once the nematode has fed, the damaged roots can no longer effectively translocate water and nutrients to the upper, aerial parts of the plant. Such damage to the plant’s anatomy and physiology below soil level explains why symptoms displayed above the soil are so easily misdiagnosed by farmers.

The scale of the damage caused may not yet even be fully understood. 

″The impact of plant-parasitic nematodes is regarded widely as being underestimated,″ says Driekie.

Managing infestation 

For farmers, it is important to understand which species are present through soil microbiome sampling. This requires inspecting the roots of infected plants to also gain insights into the soil borne disease complex in their soils. Nematodes, when combined with other pathogens – such as pathogenic fungi, for example – can reduce yields even further. 

When considering strategies for managing plant-parasitic nematodes, farmers need to bear in mind that eradicating them completely is unrealistic. 

There are many factors that contribute to their superior survival skills. For example, cysts have extremely hard cuticles that protect them from nematicides, especially contact nematicides. In the case of root-knot nematodes, a clutch of up to 1,000 eggs embedded in a gelatine matrix protects them from predators, chemicals and other threats, making it hard for farmers to disrupt their lifecycle.

An integrated nematode management strategy is therefore most likely to yield the best results. 

The four most critical pillars of the strategy are: cultural, chemical, host plant resistance and biological controls. 

Cultural strategies are useful where nematicides cannot be used. They involve ploughing, fallowing and weed control. 

Host plant resistance can reduce populations by between 60 and more than 90 percent but nematode resistance breeding is unfortunately not a priority in all countries. Numerous resistant cultivars in major crops are however available in countries such as the USA, Brazil and Argentina to name a few. 

Biological controls, such as bacteria, fungi, algae, and protozoa, are a fast-growing field and new solutions are being discovered on a regular basis. 

Chemicals are the most widely used and popular of these management pillars. Nematicides knock down nematode population density quickly, offering farmers a clear return on their investment. However, older chemistries are being removed for their unfavourable profiles in terms of impact on the environment and non-target organisms. 

The great news for farmers is that the new generation of nematicides, such as VICTRATO®, offers a completely sustainable solution with little or no impact on the environment or non-target organisms. 

Given that most climate models forecast increasing temperatures, this is likely to only increase severity of nematode infestation as their lifecycles accelerate in higher temperatures. So these more sustainable nematicides could not have arrived at a better time.

VICTRATO®: A unique solution 

Within an integrated nematode management strategy, chemical control remains the best option. 

VICTRATO® is the fungicide product, containing TYMIRIUM® technology which is the trademark of a new active ingredient from Syngenta. 

″The only time a grower can control plant parasitic nematodes is through a chemical application pre-planting or at planting,″ says Brigitte Slaats, Seedcare Technical Expert, Europe, Africa Middle East. 

Brigitte adds, ″For arable crops, an ideal, simple and convenient method is through seed treatment, because applying the AI [active ingredient] to the seed, the seed is used as a vehicle to position the AI exactly where it needs to be, in the rhizosphere to ward off nematodes from entering the root system.″ 

This also allows for a significant reduction in the volume of AI applied per hectare in comparison to broadacre pesticide applications, she says.


Soybean field in Brazil, showing the impact of 'UNSEEN ENEMY': Lesion nematodes and Soybean cyst nematode

Developing such a unique molecule was a complex undertaking, involving a huge, multidisciplinary team. The aim, when the project began in 2007, was to find a novel chemistry tailored for seed treatment use with a new mode of action for nematode control. 

″The first key element of a new seed-applied nematicide is strong intrinsic potency against all economically relevant plant parasitic nematodes. This ensures maximum protection, leading to best return on investment for this measure, in yield, to the farmer,″ says Brigitte. 

Intrinsic potential needed to be extremely strong to develop a successful candidate molecule as a seed treatment. So in the next step, candidates were tested as a seed treatment against cyst, root knot and lesion nematodes in greenhouse test systems. 

The other critical development criteria were an improved human and environmental safety profile compared to commercially available nematicides to overcome existing and future global regulatory constraints. 

Production costs and scalability were an equally important consideration as the final product needed to be affordable for the grower. 

The result is a unique new seed treatment that targets plant parasitic nematodes and key soil borne fungal diseases. It enables growers to increase the quality of many crops, including soybeans, corn, cereals, cotton, and rice. Brigitte says, ″VICTRATO® contains TYMIRIUM® technology – a high-performance, low dose active ingredient innovation from Syngenta. VICTRATO® is simple to use mainly for row crops. It protects the plant from the root to the emerging leaves, making it more resilient and productive. 

Its favorable profile allows easy handling with no restrictions regarding the application system or devices.″ 

She adds, ″Applied to the seed, VICTRATO® is partially translocated to above-ground parts of the plant. This suppresses or controls key pathogens, aiding later crop management.″ 


VICTRATO®: a building block for soil health management 

Growers face increased pressure to grow more from less and this is only expected to intensify in the years ahead. 

Alongside this pressure, as well as playing a key role in fighting and mitigating climate change, agriculture must also contribute to greater carbon capture. 

One of the foundations for achieving each of these goals is improved soil health. With the UN FAO reporting that 33 percent of our soils are degraded, improved soil health will not only improve productivity but also sequester more carbon (through practices such as no-tillage or minimum tillage), reducing the effects of climate change. 

A healthy soil maintains a diverse community of soil organisms. In fact, 25 percent of biodiversity on our planet lives within our soils. These help to control plant disease, insect and weed pests, and form beneficial symbiotic associations with plant roots. 

VICTRATO® provides a sustainable solution to plant-parasitic nematodes and soil-borne diseases, which are present in almost all agricultural soils. Thanks to powerful and targeted activity against plant-parasitic nematodes and soil-borne diseases, VICTRATO® preserves a vibrant range of life forms in the soil. VICTRATO® conserves the agro-ecosystem – from bacterial diversity to the richness of fungal diversity and the wide range of soil invertebrates that thrive in healthy soil – while tackling target pests. It also supports the agricultural industry as it strives for carbon neutral sustainable production. 

″VICTRATO® is a building block for sustainable soil health management. It supports regenerative agriculture practices such as no or minimum tillage, controlling nematodes and diseases that limit the adoption and productivity of these systems,″ says Thierry Querol, Global Regenerative Agriculture Lead, Syngenta. 

By managing plant-parasitic nematode populations sustainably, VICTRATO® enables plants to develop bigger root systems in infested fields, promoting optimal water and nutrient uptake. ″By controlling plant-parasitic nematodes and diseases that damage plant roots and reduce plant health with VICTRATO®, crops increase their stress tolerance and yield while reducing input consumption per unit of yield, which maximizes grower ROI,″ says Thierry. 

VICTRATO® offers farmers the option to replace older technologies with one that will enable them to unleash their potential in terms of higher yields of better quality and more sustainable production. 

To gain such benefits, however, farmers need to develop a greater understanding of the threat that lies hidden in their soil. Once they recognize and identify the cause of the ‘big give-away’, a sustainable, innovative technology in the form of a seed treatment can help them recover a significant portion of yields currently being lost to plant-parasitic nematodes.

Transforming the farming systems with VICTRATO® 

备用2.jpeg″VICTRATO® stands as a beacon of innovation in the agricultural landscape. This groundbreaking seed applied fungicide-nematicide not only sets new standards in crop protection but holds the promise of transforming farming systems globally″, says Jader Caricati, Global Product Lead for Seedcare products at Syngenta. 

″With its unmatched effectiveness against nematodes, TYMIRIUM® technology presents a game changing solution, safeguarding young plant health and optimizing yields. Embracing VICTRATO® as seed treatment means embracing a future where farmers can cultivate resilient, sustainable crops, ensuring food security for a rapidly growing world″, completes Jader. 

VICTRATO® will become an essential tool for farmers and seed companies around the world. By incorporating it into their seed treatments, companies can offer a distinct competitive advantage, fostering customer loyalty and driving market growth. ″As the agricultural industry evolves, VICTRATO® stands as a game-changer, empowering seed companies to revolutionize farming systems, nurture sustainable agriculture, and shape the future of global food and fiber production,″ adds Jader. 

Further registrations across a broad range of crops world-wide are expected over the next five years.

This article was initially published in AgroPages' '2023 Seed Treatment Special' magazine.

If you would like to share your company's story. Please contact Christina Xie at christina@agropages.com


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