The soil is a dynamic and living environment and is home to many different types of living organisms, such as bacteria, fungi and nematodes. The balance of these of organisms is a highly delicate one. Subtle changes, like those due to new farming practices, can result in pathogens that cause great damage to crops.
One of these new practices is no-till, which has been increasingly adopted because of the many benefits that intensive tillage systems cannot match, for example: reduced labour, fuel, and soil erosion combined with improved long-term productivity and greater soil moisture retention. But these practices leave the soil undisturbed with a layer of organic matter on top, and this leads to an increase of plant pathogens in the soil. And this is exactly where innovative seed treatment solutions come into play and allow the adoption of new agronomic practices.
The grower normally doesn’t pay too much attention to root health because seed- and soilborne pathogens are often hidden below ground, and these pathogens often damage plants before any signs of the disease are visible. Underground attacks by soilborne pathogens normally go unnoticed until the end of the growing season. Recently, researchers have come up with a way to study the underground world of plants in their natural soil environment, and they are applying this knowledge to develop specifically targeted solutions to fight off the pathogens.
They have analyzed interactions between seed treatments and other factors impacting crop health, including disease, pests, moisture efficiency and nutrient utilization. As an outcome we were able to show that these technologies lead to healthier root systems. This helps plants to better utilize the available nutrients and moisture and produces stronger plants that are able to withstand stress caused by adverse weather conditions, diseases and insects.
This link between stronger roots and higher yield potential is hugely important, and is a concept that’s changing how things are done by growers and solutions providers.
In my view, we need to combine all available tools that we have. In other words, we need to integrate solutions such as seed treatments with agronomic practices and also with carefully selected genetics. Improved genetics are a part of root health, as much as seed treatments are.
However, the advantage of seed treatment is that by reaching the roots directly, new technologies ensure strong, healthy plants with robust roots right from the start.