Plantum and Vertify organised another mini-symposium on future proof seeds at ‘Seeds meets Technology’.
Focus on innovative crop protection
On 26 – 28th of September 2023 the international seeds and seed technology world gathered at Seeds meets Technology at Vertify, Zwaagdijk-Oost. As a follow up on last year, Plantum and Vertify organised another mini-symposium on future proof seeds. Last year we mainly talked about regulations and the challenges these bring to us to register plant protection products for seed treatment and for the international movement of treated seeds. This year we focused on innovative crop protection solutions for seeds. As more and more ‘traditional’ chemical plant protection products for seed treatment lose their authorisations, new solutions are urgently needed to protect our valuable seeds against pests and pathogens. This topic seemed to appeal to the visitors of Seeds meets Technology, since the room (70 people) was already fully booked weeks before the event.
Unravel seed defence mechanisms
Three speakers presented interesting developments in research and practice to protect seed.*
First Jerome Verdier, researcher at INRAE IRHS (Institute of Research in Horticulture and Seeds) in France talked about the SUCSEED project. In this 6 year project, funded by the French ministry, the researchers examine how biotic and abiotic stresses impact seed quality, in order to manipulate biological mechanisms to mute negative stress effects. The work includes a lot of fundamental research, but also more practical work on model crops tomato, bean, wheat and oil seed rape. One of the objectives is to understand seed defence mechanisms, which (plant based) ingredients are involved at molecular level, and how to boost these defence mechanisms through plant resistance inducers and priming methods. The work on seed formulation has only just started: we can expect more interesting results the coming years.
‘Green’ plant protection products
Frans Tetteroo, project lead of the ‘Groen op Zaad’ (Green on Seed) project, presented the more practical research that is done at Vertify on ‘green’ seed treatments. ‘Green’ is defined as low-risk opportunities, including micro-organisms, basic substances, plant extracts and organic compounds. This relatively new field of play needs a lot of combined knowledge from seeds, seed technology and ‘green’ plant protection products. This is why a consortium of companies and associations started this 4 year project in 2021. The first challenge was to develop good testing methods. Half way the project some protocols have been developed to test effectiveness against soil born diseases and potential products are tested. Also several coating methods have been tested. The consortium will continue the work the coming years. Hopefully it will support plant protection companies to work on authorisation for these new products on seed.
Challenges for new techniques
Last but not least Vital Fluid introduced Plasma Activated Water (PAW) as a crop protection solution for several applications. Mark van Boxtel from Vital Fluid updated us on the results of trials in seeds. Through this ’Lightning in a box’ system seeds can be disinfected. It also has a priming effect, resulting in better germination. Moreover, Mark addressed the challenges an innovative company meets when entering the market with a new crop protection method. Remarkably, registration procedures in the USA versus the EU differ significantly both in duration and costs. And even more remarkable: the UK as a third country has its own regulations and seems to accept PAW as a physical crop protection method, not needing further authorisation. Some questions concentrated on the possibility to scale up the PAW technique, especially since you would need sufficient drying capacity. This is something Vital Fluid is working on right now.
Ready for 2030?
After the presentations there was a lively discussion on several topics, such as whether we will have sufficient crop protection solutions available to protect our seeds in the year 2030. The conclusion was that we already collect a lot of knowledge on seeds, their interaction with natural present and artificial applied compounds, and pathogens but more knowledge is needed to understand the complex interactions. Also a solution will not be a 1 on 1 replacement of a chemical product by an alternative product. Support is needed in research and development, and in regulations. There are still many challenges to overcome, but researchers and companies see a lot of potential for future proof, resilient seeds and seed protection methods.
*All presentations are available here.