Seed treatments seem simple enough. You take the product and apply it to seed. They’re designed to be simple. But what happens before that product hits the shelf is anything but.
I started with Bayer over 14 years ago. One of my first tasks was to help evaluate a brand-new active ingredient that we were considering for use in Canada. It took nine years from that first day we looked at it until it was registered and on the market. A lot of work went into it behind the scenes.
If there’s one key to developing a seed treatment, it is collaboration. I manage our seed treatment research facility here in Canada, one of five such labs that specialize in this area around the globe. Our research focuses a lot on the Canadian market and producer needs here in Canada.
We are the first ones to see any new potential seed treatment active ingredients or formulations that may have potential use in Canada. If there’s a new active ingredient coming out of Germany that needs to be examined for possible use in a seed treatment, it usually comes with limited information on effectiveness against the pests that are important to Canada. We test against our local pathogens and provide feedback to everyone who might potentially be researching it.
It’s a very hands-on process. We do small screening protocols on petri plates with naturally infected seed. We also conduct soil screens, which involves planting the treated seed in pots and exposing it to a specific soil-borne disease. We maintain a small stock of local plant pathogens in our lab for use in the soil screens, and we do a lot of testing to understand specific diseases and how they work in the field, so our products can be more targeted and efficient.
We work closely with our agronomic team who are in the field evaluating these actives and new formulations. We use a lot of data and analytics in understanding our new products. We explore and try to understand as best we can our actives and formulations and why they work or don’t work the way we want them to.
But it doesn’t end there. Our SeedGrowth sales and marketing team gives us feedback on what they, and our customers, like and don’t like about our products, from pest spectrum, formulation type to application characteristics. We incorporate that information into the development process. Sometimes it’s as simple as tweaking colour or viscosity. At our seed treatment facility we get an initial sense of what a formulation is like to work with, how well it coats the seed, how easy is it to clean out of equipment, and we provide that feedback to our formulation scientists.
In my next column I will offer some insights into why this development process is constantly evolving as we move into the future.