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Battelle: The Future of Seed Treatment Formulations for Sustainable Crop Protectionqrcode

−− Exclusive interview with Marissa Alves, Battelle’s Senior Research Scientist – Seed Treatment Formulation Expert

Jun. 18, 2024

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Jun. 18, 2024

United States  United States

Editor’s Note: ″At Battelle, we are able to offer a ″one-stop-shop″ solution for your entire seed treatment development process. From initial product concept to final formulation, we can also provide regulatory support in preparing the submission to the authorities. Our team of expert formulators collaborates closely with microbiologists, analytical scientists, and regulatory experts to develop solutions for both conventional and biological seed treatments. At Battelle, we have the capability to conduct a complete package of testing, including Heubach dust-off testing, flowability and germination testing, and analytical determination of seed-to-seed uniformity of distribution including analysis of seed loading. All our laboratories are GLP-compliant, guaranteeing the highest quality data for regulatory submissions.″Marissa Alves, Battelle’s Senior Research Scientist, Seed Treatment Formulation Expert, stressed in a recent interview with AgroPages. 

During this interview, she also shared her insights on key factors considered to formulate effective seed treatments, challenges of formulation development and Battelle's addressing solutions,  the company’s capability to keep sustainable innovation,  their specific technologies and expertise in seed treatment formulation,  as well as the company’s ″one-stop-shop″ service for assisting companies seeking seed treatment solutions etc.


Marissa Alves

Battelle’s Senior Research Scientist, 

Seed Treatment Formulation Expert

What is the significance of seed treatments for the agricultural industry?

The crop protection industry presents a wide portfolio of seed varieties that are fundamental to crop production. Seeds face many challenges during seedling establishment from pest attacks and diseases to environmental stresses. Seed treatments are a cost-effective approach to encourage healthy seed germination and ultimately higher crop yields to meet global supply and demand.    

What are the various types of seed treatment formulations available?

Seed treatments can be considered to target three areas. First, seed-borne organisms where fungicidal treatments are required to act over a short period of time to provide protection from seed-borne pathogens. Second, soil-borne organisms that attack germinating seeds; here seedlings are protected for a longer time from nematode and insect pests by insecticidal seed treatments. Third, seedling growth and resistance to environmental stress are encouraged by microbial inoculants, plant growth regulators and fertilizers. Thereafter, organisms that attack plants later in their growth stage require crop protection products.   

Given the diverse nature of seeds and target pests, what key factors must be considered when formulating effective seed treatments?

Good knowledge of formulating liquid and solid crop protection products as well as a thorough understanding of the application processes to seeds is key in developing effective conventional or biological seed treatment formulations. The physico-chemical characteristics of the formulation will affect the ease of application of the treatment to the seed, should allow for easy cleaning of application equipment, encourage active components to adhere to the seed surface, and allow for active sustainability. It is key that the active components are spread uniformly on the seed surface to achieve the desired active concentrations onto the seed surface or maintain CFU (colony-forming unit) counts for bioefficacy. When formulating new seed treatments, the risks of using the product to operators and the environment are also evaluated.     

How do conventional and biological seed treatments differ and what are the key challenges associated with each approach? 

Biological seed treatments employ the use of living microbes, either as a single species, a mixture of selected species, or as a more complex consortia of species in order to protect seeds from pathogens, as opposed to conventional seed treatments using synthetic chemicals. Today, seed treatment is still mostly based on chemical treatments mainly as insecticides, nematicides, fungicides and fertilizers. However, market insights show an increasing demand for biopesticide seed treatments which are augmented by the use of biostimulants and biofertilizers. The relative importance and status of each type of treatment differ between countries and regions across the globe. Overall, environmental concerns, consumer demands and regulatory pressures on conventional crop protection products are driving the demand for biological seed treatments as is the rise in organic farming practices. 

What are the most significant formulation challenges currently faced in the development of seed treatments?

A major challenge that is affecting the seed treatment industry is the use of microplastic products. The European Union is banning microplastics in crop protection products (and pharmaceuticals and cosmetics) with a deadline for all products marketed in the EU to be free of microplastics within five to eight years. 

Seed treatments often contain polymeric binders that meet the definition of microplastics, however, when the binder material is insufficiently degradable the materials cannot be included in the product. The requirement for novel non-microplastic binders that meet or outperform existing products on different seed types is challenging. Microorganisms can face different challenges when applied as a seed treatment; careful selection of coformulants is essential in order to manufacture a commercially acceptable product, that is, one in which the microorganisms remain viable for at least two years of storage. 

There is an increasing requirement from clients that coformulants in seed treatment formulations be OMRI (organic materials review institute) approved or listed. This can limit the selection of candidates that can be used to provide cost-effective quality products. Another challenge is in the selection of compatible additives to aid seed resilience to adverse environmental conditions such as desiccation, UV light, and wash-off. Another important quality of a product is that a concentrated seed treatment product provides good dilution properties all whilst maintaining good flowability through a seed drill with a low dust-off rate.

How is the formulation process designed to achieve a balance between efficacy, safety and environmental impact?

Battelle works with our clients by offering customized seed treatment recipes including recommendations of suitable seed binders and pigment dispersions. In the initial stages of formulation development, concentrations of coformulants are carefully considered to comply with target geographic region tolerance levels. At the early stages of formulation development, Battelle’s formulation experts have a working relationship with Battelle’s regulatory teams in EMEA, Latam and the U.S., to address any concerns such as registered Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) concentrations for active ingredients for the EU or overcoming application concerns by conducting risk assessments using different models such as the Seedtropex model and offering mitigations. The formulation process also includes storage stability studies of the most feasible formulations to measure the physico-chemical robustness of new seed treatment recipes over time. Battelle’s formulation experts also work closely with analytical chemists to measure the amounts of active on the seed surface or in dust-off collected from treated seeds. For all seed formulations, germination testing can be conducted in-house under various temperature, humidity and UV conditions. After initial greenhouse studies are conducted, the formulation team can adjust recipes to improve bioefficacy and or resistance to environmental stresses. This multidisciplinary formulation development process allows for the production of sustainable and safe seed treatment formulations.   

With the evolving landscape of pest resistance, how does Battelle stay ahead of the curve and develop innovative seed treatment formulation solutions? 

The crop protection industry in general is a sector in transformation with significant needs for finding alternative solutions to conventional plant protection products including the rapidly evolving market of biologicals. Battelle recognizes that being aware of the latest trends and being able to apply new technologies and methods is critical to solving tough challenges. To accommodate this, Battelle invests in its own internal research and development (R&D) and new equipment to provide solutions to problems faced by our clients. In addition, Battelle’s breadth of services runs deep with decades of biological, bioscience and crop protection formulation which allows us to provide innovative solutions to challenges presented in the development of seed treatment formulations. We base our innovative and sustainable scientific solutions on an integrated approach to research, development, and regulatory compliance. Our dedicated team of multidisciplinary experts is comprised of analytical chemists, formulation chemists and microbiologists, some having 25-40 years of experience in formulation and bioformulation R&D.

Can you elaborate on the specific technologies and expertise Battelle utilizes in seed treatment formulation? 

Formulation technologies fundamentally depend on the properties of the active ingredients as well as the compatibility of an active ingredient in formulations with more than one active ingredient. Other important factors are the types of application equipment that will be employed and the type of seeds to be treated. During the development process, ease of cleaning the treatment from the equipment and the risks to the operator and environment must also be considered. 

Battelle’s formulation department has experience with several different seed treatment technologies including capsule suspension for seed treatment (CF), emulsions for seed treatment (ES), microemulsion for seed treatment (ME) and soluble concentrate solutions for seed treatment (LS). Water-based concentrated formulations - flowable concentrates for seed treatments (FS) are a common conventional type of seed treatment. FS technologies are often safer to handle because they are water-based with no dust production. Flowable concentrates can be designed to give good adhesion on the seed, low dust-off and fewer issues during germination.    

Biological seed treatments are commonly formulated as water-dispersible powders (WS) with coformulants carefully selected to provide good viability of the microbe over a range of environmental conditions.    

Battelle conducts its own internal R&D to gain knowledge to better support our clients as well as to generate proprietary technology that can be offered commercially.

Case study: Screening Battelle’s non-microplastic seed binders in a new seed treatment formulation.

Battelle has developed flowable concentrate seed treatment (FS) formulations with a broad spectrum of fungicidal active ingredients. This case study describes the screening process of using a selection of Battelle’s non-microplastic seed binders to incorporate into the new formulation. Suitable binders would present low dust-off and similar or improved flowability when compared to a control product.   

Six different seed treatment products were prepared by adding the same concentration of Battelle’s non-microplastic seed binders to a milled slurry. Each of the finished seed treatment products were then diluted in deionised water to known dose rates. The treatment was applied to 500g batches of wheat seed using a Wintersteiger Hege 11 rotary seed treater. Treated seeds were then simply air-dried overnight at ambient conditions.  

For screening purposes, dust-off testing was conducted on a Heubach dust meter using an adapted ESA method with 200g of treated seed. The test was conducted for 600 seconds. 


Figure 1: Dust-off values of products containing Battelle’s non-microplastic binders on wheat seed

Dust-off testing indicated that several products containing Battelle’s non-microplastic seed binders provided reduced dust-off on wheat seed compared to a control commercial product.  

Next, the flowability of treated seeds was measured using Battelle’s custom-designed drill equipment fitted with a motor and a seed drill that would typically be used in the field. For screening, 200g of seed was passed through the drill with a motor forward speed of 215Kg/Ha.


Figure 2: Flowability of new seed treatments containing Battelle’s non-microplastic binders on wheat seed

Flowability testing indicated that all products with Battelle’s non-microplastic seed binders provided improved flow when coated on wheat seed compared to the performance of the commercial product.  Data from this screen showed that Battelle’s non-microplastic binders when incorporated in new seed treatments result in dust-off values that meet ESA reference values of 4g of dust per 100Kg of seed. New seed treatment products with non-microplastic would provide reduced dust-off and good flow through planting equipment when coated on wheat seed compared to a commercial product. Further adjustments during formulation optimization could lead to further reduction of dust-off values and further improve the flowability of seeds if required.

What are the anticipated future trends in seed treatment formulation and how might advancements such as biopesticides and nanotechnology be integrated? 

Market insights show that seed treatment is a high-value market with unexploited potential. Furthermore, multinational companies are investing in biological seed treatments to increase their product portfolio offerings with more efficient, environmentally friendly, and sustainable seed treatment solutions. The direction of these markets is heavily influenced by coformulants that are microplastic-free and products that are natural or organic-approved. Anticipated trends are incorporating microplastic-free coformulant materials into biological seed treatments to enhance plant growth, reduce environmental stress and increase overall yield.

How does Battelle help clients navigate the regulatory challenges for seed treatment? 

Battelle's GLP-compliant laboratories offer comprehensive solutions for your entire seed treatment development process. From initial concept to final dossier preparation, we handle formulation development, regulatory testing, risk assessment, and everything in between. Our new seed treatments are formulated to meet the stringent physico-chemical data requirements of regulatory authorities around the world. Our experienced study directors collaborate closely with Battelle's regulatory team in the EU and US to address any potential concerns, such as registered Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) concentrations for active ingredients in the EU or assessing EPA materials tolerances and exemptions. Battelle's analytical scientists are highly skilled in developing and validating new methods to ensure accurate data collection throughout the process. Our GLP studies for new formulations undergo rigorous audits by Battelle's Quality Assurance personnel, guaranteeing the integrity and reliability of your results.

In what ways can Battelle Crop Protection Solutions assist companies seeking seed treatment solutions?

Many laboratories only provide specific services, such as regulatory or safety testing. Contracting with multiple laboratories for different aspects of development can be complex to manage and may slow development timelines and time to market. At Battelle, we are able to offer a ″one-stop-shop″ solution for your entire seed treatment development process. From initial product concept to final formulation, we can also provide regulatory support in preparing the submission to the authorities. Our team of expert formulators collaborates closely with microbiologists, analytical scientists, and regulatory experts to develop solutions for both conventional and biological seed treatments. At Battelle, we have the capability to conduct a complete package of testing, including Heubach dust-off testing, flowability and germination testing, and analytical determination of seed-to-seed uniformity of distribution including analysis of seed loading. All our laboratories are GLP-compliant, guaranteeing the highest quality data for regulatory submissions.

By partnering with Battelle, you accelerate the development process and reduce the time to market. We offer flexible business models, including fee-for-service and IP formulation technologies, to suit your needs. 

Ultimately, Battelle helps clients achieve a competitive advantage and solidify their market presence by making seed treatment development more efficient and effective.

If you'd  like to share your company's story and solutions or have any promotion demands in AgroPages, please contact Grace Yuan: grace@agropages.com


Source: AgroNews


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