The Importance of Seed Treatment
Strong seedlings produce resilient, high-yield and top-quality crops – hence why seed treatment is so crucial.
Effective seed treatment delivers pest and disease management as well as fertility management products during the growing cycle, ensuring that the seeds can establish strong rooting systems. Seed is protected from harm (such as seed and soil-borne fungi and insects) while also enhancing their health, nutrition, and the quality of their soil. The largest benefit is flexibility so growers can tailor their seed treatment approach to different soil, climate conditions, and crop cycles – even for the same seed variety.
The Benefits of Seed Treatment
While seed treatment is far from the only method of controlling pests and diseases, it’s arguably the most effective and environmentally friendly. Consider that chemically treated seeds require considerably lower doses compared to crops that are treated by constantly reapplying spray applications of the same active ingredient. Growers that embrace seed treatment will reduce costs while also minimizing their environmental impact throughout the production process.
The active ingredients that many growers have traditionally relied upon are coming under increasing scrutiny due to their impact on the environment and on consumers’ health. These concerns have led to new regulations, and to growers exploring new avenues of pest and seed nutrition management. This has paved the way for microbial solutions to be used as seed treatment amendments and many companies are investing in research surrounding microbial seed treatments. Microbial seed treatments are used in addition to traditional chemical treatments and in some cases replacing the chemical components.
Today’s seed treatment solutions must be analyzed more extensively than their predecessors. All new products pass through rigorous laboratory and field trials, allowing manufacturers to collect a wealth of necessary environmental, ecological and health data. Having compiled this data, they can prove product safety and demonstrate compliance with global regulatory requirements.
But that’s not all. Organizations that produce microbial solutions must carefully analyze their products to identify and quantify any potential impact on seedlings' health or growth potential. Plus, they also need to consider the compatibility of the different microbial solutions added to seeds, as well as the microbe’s compatibility with traditional chemicals used adjacently.
Biopesticide and biostimulant products which have been developed in recent years are now accepted as alternatives to traditional methods and products.
SGS’s Seed Treatment Stewardship Program
SGS – a globally renowned leader in quality assurance testing – provides clients with a step-by-step service to ensure they bring safe, high-quality and effective new seed treatment solutions to market. Below, we explain how this process works from start to finish.
SGS’s Seed Treatment Testing Process
SGS experts determine whether the product can be successfully applied to seeds along with determining the optimum dose rate, drying time and consistency for ideal coverage during the treatment process.
Germination and vigor testing assesses product safety, ensuring there are no immediate phytotoxic effects, while long-term product safety studies examine what happens when the product is used on its own (as well as in combination with other commercially available products). SGS experts place seeds treated with the product solution into storage and periodically test them to identify any impact on the seeds’ germination, vigor and performance. There’s no set duration for these tests – they’re typically based on the capacity of the experimental seed treatment solution and its expected storage life.
Having established that the product is safe and effective when used independently, SGS experts then set about determining the product’s compatibility with other active ingredients. They prepare a slurry mix with other commercial ingredients that will likely be used in combination with the tested product and assess their compatibility by relying on visual observations, changes in pH, particulate formulation and product settling.
This process differs slightly in the case of microbial solutions. Seed treatment experts assess compatibility in slurry solutions during both the mixing and treatment processes, as well as determining the product’s efficacy throughout its expected shelf life. When analyzing seed treatment solutions, experts continually monitor microbial inoculants and colony-forming unit (CFU) counts.
Dust-off testing serves as an additional product safety measure, using a Heubach dust meter to measure treated seeds’ levels of free-floating and abrasion particles. This testing method was initially introduced back in 2008 in Germany to protect pollinators and other non-target organisms from exposure to dust generated by treated seeds. Nowadays, the procedure is used to help seed treatment manufacturers evaluate the adhesiveness of treatment solutions by analyzing the amount of dust created from mechanically stressing the treated seeds. Note: The test can be performed on samples treated with the product alone or within a commercial solution mix.
The European Seed Association (Euroseeds) leads the way in preventing treated seeds that fail to meet reference values or legal requirements from entering the international market. SGS continues to operate at the forefront of the global seed treatment market, having partnered with Euroseeds to establish a seed treatment facility certification and set dust reference values for several types of crops.
Finally, product manufacturers must assess flowability and conduct plantability testing to ensure the seed flow process through equipment is not affected by the treatment . Seeds are treated with experimental products before then being monitored as they flow through seed treatment application, bagging and planting equipment.
SGS’s Additional Seed Testing Capabilities
SGS also offers a range of additional tests to complement those outlined above, helping to further improve the safety profile of seed treatment products. For example, SGS’s in-house analytical laboratories provide invaluable seed treatment application verification (STAV) and homogeneity testing services.
What’s more, given that many active ingredients have a systemic effect and translocate within the plant to provide protection, we also offer enhanced crop or environmental residue testing. Operator exposure studies ensure personnel safety by analyzing the risk of exposure to chemicals during the mixing, loading and planting processes. Even once active ingredients or seed treatment products are successfully registered, SGS can provide additional safety measures as part of our overall seed treatment stewardship program.
SGS: Global Seed Treatment Leaders
SGS boasts unparalleled seed treatment expertise. Our laboratories are all GEP-, GLP- and ISO-accredited, while our established Centers of Excellence in France and South Dakota, USA, offer the full support required for research & development processes. We provide full quality control testing of treated seeds in multiple laboratories throughout both the USA and Europe, enforcing dust limit values and providing objective, independent testing.
With a global network of 2,600 SGS offices and laboratories, we can rapidly replicate procedures and technology to fit our customers’ needs. Going forward, we plan to increase investment in our Centers of Excellence and extend our services for GLP testing in microbiology as part of our continued commitment to the agricultural industry.
For more information, you can contact:
Amanda Ver Helst
SGS Director of Operations, Crop Science
This article was initially published in AgroPages' '2022 Seed Treatment Special' magazine.