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Seed Treatments

Part 1: The Fundamentals

Eden recently announced an exclusive Commercialisation, Supply and Distribution Agreement with Corteva Agriscience, a global leader in agricultural inputs, including seeds and seed treatments.  This agreement, the first of its kind between Eden and a global industry leader, covers the further development, registration and distribution of seed treatments incorporating a novel seed treatment product from Eden.  Eden anticipates the emerging product, once registered and commercialised, will be among the most valuable in its portfolio with potential beyond the initial target segments.  This is also Eden’s first agreement in the rapidly growing field of seed treatments, and the two companies are working hard together to bring their innovations to market as quickly as possible.

Seeds are the foundation of agricultural production and protecting them is therefore of utmost importance. In this two-part series we aim to answer the fundamental questions around seed treatments and explore how companies like Eden and the products they develop are crucial for farmers as a result of regulatory challenges.

What are seed treatments?

Seed treatments are the physical, biological or chemical agents applied to seeds to provide protection and help improve overall crop performance. There are multiple functions within each seed treatment coating - they aim to support greater uniformity of seed germination, plant height, vigour and biomass by protecting against pathogens and pests and/or can act as a source of crop nutrition or growth regulation. 

A seed treatment is applied directly to the seed before sowing and can be employed in various forms. Physical treatments include heat treating for microbial control or priming for more even crop germination. Applications of product to the seed itself include seed dressing, seed coating, and seed pelleting. These treatments typically include fungicidal or insecticidal active ingredients or nutrients and treatments can be applied either as a solid/dust or as a liquid. Colourants are used in seed treatments to give a clear indication that a seed has been treated and to confirm uniformity of the coating.

Types of seed treatment:

    - Seed dressing – widely used for applying low volumes of actives to a seed surface. Typically increases seed weight by <1%
    - Seed coating – a very adaptable method that produces a continuous, thin film over the whole seed surface. Seed weight increased by up to 5%.   
    - Seed pelleting – thick covering of the seed whereby all seeds become uniform and the original shape is no longer visible. Increases in weight of up to 5,000%.Used for high value seeds with precision planting requirements.

Why use seed treatments? What is their value?

The value of seed treatments lies in the requirement for farmers to protect their most expensive  input – their seed. Loss of viable seeds can severely impact the total crop output potential and efficiency of production. Once sown, seeds can experience a number of biotic and abiotic stresses from pests and disease to nutrient stress, and without effective seed treatments, many crops could be devastated before they even make it out of the ground. 

Furthermore, increasing numbers of farmers around the world are investing in more expensive, higher quality seed. The cost of a seed treatment thus acts as an insurance policy for farmers against potentially unsurmountable losses. For example, it is estimated that in the USA almost 100% of maize seed is treated, followed by wheat, potato, cotton and soybean.  In France, up to 93% of seed for field crops are treated. 

The global value of seed treatments is expected to reach $11.3 billion by 2025, according to Markets and Markets, with a compounded annual growth rate over 12%. This is fuelled partly by a surge in demand from Asia Pacific regions where there is an increasing market for high-quality agricultural output. 

The growth is further fuelled by various regulations and government agencies encouraging the use of seed treatments to contribute to the production of healthy and uniform crops, whilst minimising overall pesticide applications. 

Seed treatment benefits vs other applications

The benefits of seed treatments over other applications are plentiful. Used correctly, seed treatments can improve yield and quality and produce a clear return on investment. 

These benefits are a result of the targeted and minimised use of active ingredients, rather than the higher applications of product to crops and land as is the case when using foliar spray and fumigation. With proper seed treatment, only 0.5-1% of the acreage is exposed to the active ingredient in comparison with a sprayed application where up to 100% of the crop area is exposed. 

According to academic research, the amount of active ingredient required to achieve disease control as a fungicidal seed treatment is often considerably less (only 5-10% of active ingredient per hectare) than the amount of active ingredient applied in-furrow or as a foliar spray. 

Application of seed treatments is typically done by seed companies and/or distributors rather than on-farm so it reduces the requirement for growers to handle pesticide formulations, reducing labour and the associated risk for operators and workers.

Seed treatment has emerged as a cost-effective crop protection solution compared to conventional spraying, as it is less labour intensive and has higher efficiency. These benefits are reflected in the market, with the value of global seed treatments projected to achieve strong growth up to 2025.

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