Alternative seed treatment project aiming for a more sustainable future
A more sustainable and environmentally friendly way to treat vegetable seeds is the focus of a multi-partner research project involving one of the UK’s largest seed producers and Bangor University.
Tozer Seeds has partnered with the university’s Biocomposites Center to develop alternative seed treatments that aim to control disease as well as improve traits suitable for germination and crop establishment.
The 18-month project, funded by the UK government’s Farming Innovation Pathways programme, will see celery, parsnip and coriander seeds treated with lasers and natural bioactive compounds.
Strategies aim not only to disinfect seeds from pathogenic pathogens, which can lead to large volumes of wasted crops, but also to improve germination rate, seedling establishment, growth rate and crop yield .
Bangor University’s Biocomposites Center assisted in the development of the proposed treatments, with an initial focus on optimizing the strength of the bioactive compound and the power and treatment time of the laser.
The laser seed treatment work is led by Dr. Zengbo Wang’s team at the School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering.
The first round of testing and lab work is currently underway, with the most promising seed treatments to be evaluated by partner growers who are part of the Surrey-based Tozer Seeds supply chain.
Anglesey growers Medwyn’s, G’s Group and Strawsons will contribute to the initiative, providing industry knowledge and space for growth.
Group Research and Development Director at Tozer Seeds, Dr Matthew Walker, said:
“A plant is most vulnerable during the early stages of its development, and applying an approved pesticide to the seed helps it through the germination process and can lead to good seedling establishment and ultimately to higher crop yield.
“We are testing new seed treatment methods, which can both improve plant growth and eliminate seed-borne diseases, while having the potential to reduce our dependence on conventional pesticides.
“We look forward to working alongside Bangor University and the rest of our supply chain to ensure these innovations can be implemented at all levels.”
Seed treatment, often using pesticides, is a common practice in commercial agriculture because of its effectiveness in repelling diseases and insects at an early stage.
Although the research is initially focusing on three crops, it is expected that, if the treatment is successful, it could also be applied to other seeds.
As part of the project, Bangor University has also worked with Medwyn’s of Anglesey to access additional research and development resources under the BEACON programme.
The initiative links Welsh universities with Welsh industry to develop a more sustainable Wales through the development of bio-focused products, services and technologies and is funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Government Welsh.
Director of the Bangor University Biocomposites Center, Dr Rob Elias, said: “This is a project that requires every link in the supply chain to participate; working alongside established growers and industrial producers to bring this to fruition is incredibly exciting.
“Increasing access to research and development for business is also very important for this sector, particularly in Wales, and we are delighted to have helped support this through BEACON to further support the bioeconomy sector. and local producers.
“Identifying new methods of seed treatment will prove useful in the changing landscape of agriculture, as more resistant seeds will allow for higher crop yield and growth rate.
“The work has the potential to help reduce long-term crop production costs and allow growers to make more use of their fields through a reduced risk of environmental damage from common commercial treatments.
“This means growers will be able to produce more vegetables in a shorter time, which will also have the added benefit of reducing potential supply issues for buyers.”
“The information and industry knowledge that Tozer Seeds and other partners provide is essential to ensure that the research we undertake on these new treatments will not only be effective in the lab, but beneficial to growers planting these crops in first place.”