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Long-lasting biological seed treatments: KWS launches first product
Einbeck, September 30, 2021
KWS has been working on the further development of biologicals for many years. With a new stabilization process, beneficial microorganisms can now be preserved in microbeads and applied as a seed treatment for various crops – a breakthrough in the industry. Following intensive development work with the biotech company Evologic Technologies, KWS now offers a first seed treatment product based on preserved beneficial bacteria.
Biologicals are beneficial microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi and other substances of natural origin. They support, strengthen, and protect arable crops, and in this way contribute to sustainable agriculture. Not all beneficial microorganisms can be used in seed applications as they might be too sensitive to survive the dressing process or prolonged storage. Those sensitive microorganisms can only be applied in an additional step immediately before sowing.
To extend the portfolio of seed treatments to all microorganisms and to offer farmers additional options in biological seed dressing, KWS has been successfully researching the stabilization of these biologicals with the Graz University of Technology. They developed a process, in which bacteria are first embedded in microscopically fine beads and then applied to the seed in this preserving formulation. By applying beneficial biologicals as part of the dressing, the seedling is efficiently supported in its development right at the beginning. In addition, the amount of work required while sowing is reduced.
KWS partner Evologic Technologies, a spin-off from the Vienna University of Technology, has succeeded in developing the method into an industrial production process and scaling it to meet the requirements of commercial seed production. The partnership’s first success is a sugarbeet biostimulant that will be rolled out on the market in 2022. “For some of the process steps, technical solutions had to be designed and implemented for production. Realization was a true process engineering challenge,” says Dr. Wieland Reichelt, CEO of Evologic Technologies.
This product is a combination of six strains of bacteria specifically selected for sugarbeet. They support juvenile plant development and yield potential under stress conditions such as drought or cold. Varieties with this new technology will be available for sowing in 2022 in first European countries. “After intensive joint R&D work, we can now offer farmers a specific biological for sugarbeet as a seed dressing for the very first time,” explains Jörg Philipps, Head of the KWS Sugarbeet Business Unit.
The raw material used for the preservation in microbeads is plant-based. That means that the process offers solutions for both conventional and organic farming. Dr. Nora Temme, Manager Biologicals at KWS, explains: “We are pioneers with this new process. The application of beneficial microorganisms directly in the seed dressing efficiently strengthens the seedling right at the very start of development. Those biologicals offer sustainable benefits for soil health and yield protection and are one part of the solutions for integrated crop protection. We are currently developing further products for KWS crops, for example rye and rapeseed, based on this technology, and will offer them as seed treatments in the KWS INITIO program.”
Background information on biologicals: Seed treatments offer protection of sensitive seeds from diseases and pests and support their development directly after sowing. In addition to, for example, synthetic crop protection agents, these dressings can also contain so-called biologicals. Biologicals consist of microorganisms or substances of natural origin (e. g. plant extracts) that take on a variety of functions: They can promote root and shoot vigor of plants, strengthen them against external stress factors or contribute to improved nitrogen fixation or act as biological crop protection. Biologicals thus make an important contribution to reducing the use of synthetic crop protection products and fertilizers while at the same time ensuring yield performance.
The picture shows a comparison of sugarbeet plants coated with the biological seed dressing (right side) and sugarbeet plants coated with the earlier standard dressing (left side). The additional dressing of the biological growth promoter results in improved juvenile plant development and a more homogeneous emergence of the sugarbeet seedlings in the field.
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About KWS* KWS is one of the world’s leading plant breeding companies. In the fiscal year 2019/2020, more than 5,700 employees in 70 countries generated net sales of EUR 1.3 billion. A company with a tradition of family ownership, KWS has operated independently for more than 160 years. It focuses on plant breeding and the production and sale of seed for corn, sugarbeet, cereals, rapeseed, sunflowers and vegetables. KWS uses leading-edge plant breeding methods to increase farmers’ yields and to improve resistance to diseases, pests and abiotic stress. To that end, the company invested more than EUR 200 million last fiscal year in research and development.
*All indications excluding the results from the companies accounted for using the equity method AGRELIANT GENETICS LLC, AGRELIANT GENETICS INC. and KENFENG – KWS SEEDS CO., LTD.
About Evologic Technologies Evologic offers the contract development and implementation of biotechnological manufacturing processes for microbial products that are difficult to produce. Scientific expertise combined with proprietary manufacturing and formulation technologies enable us to reliably supply our customers with even the most challenging of organisms. Evologic customers use our services for rapid turnarounds and the production of highly concentrated, contamination-free and stable products.