Marrone Bio Innovations and Groundwork BioAg Test Bio-stacked Microbial Seed Treatments

Marrone Bio Innovations Inc. and Groundwork BioAg, Ltd. announced successful seed treatment field trials of the world’s first all-biological comprehensive seed treatment. The treatments tested in corn and soybeans contained a mycorrhizal inoculant from Groundwork, as well as a bioinsecticide, a bionematicide, and a biofungicide from Marrone.

The Biological Stack Seed Treatment (BSST) is comprised of two insecticidal/nematicidal bacteria, one biostimulant/fungicidal bacterium and mycorrhizal fungi. Together, these synergistic microorganisms can provide a wide scope of benefits to growers: crop yield increases, resilience under abiotic stress conditions, reduction of fertilizer requirements (especially phosphorus), and resistance to soil-dwelling pests and plant diseases.  In fact, we believe BSST constitutes the first all-biological seed treatment able to effectively provide all of these benefits without synthetic pesticides.

Dr. Pam Marrone, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Marrone Bio Innovations, commented, “We are excited that the first year of trials confirmed and enhanced our previous field trials with our pesticidal microbes. The addition of Groundwork’s mycorrhizae appear to enhance these microbes. We believe that this project has potential for high impact in the seed treatment market in general across a broad range of crops, and in particular can meet an unaddressed need for the rapidly growing organic grain segment and regions where pest resistance is an issue. Based on the BSST results, we are keen on expanding our trials to include biotic stresses such as sudden death syndrome in soybean, as well as Fusarium stalk rot and Pythium in corn and soybeans.”

Dr. Yossi Kofman, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Groundwork BioAg, added, “Our Rootella product line is extremely cost-effective and has been proven to enhance yields of row crops, such as corn and soybean. Rootella is particularly effective under abiotic stress conditions, such as drought, flooding, acidity, or detrimental weather. The novel combination of Rootella with MBI’s biotic stress protection will simultaneously enhance yields and protect crops – and thus farmer investment.”

Corn and soybeans were tested in four Midwestern U.S. states. In corn, the two bio-stacked treatments reduced corn rootworm populations and corn lodging, at least as well or better than the commercial chemical standard.  Reduced corn rootworm damage generally correlated with increased yields. BSST Treatment 1 provided an average increase of 10.9 bushels (+5.8%), and BSST Treatment 2 an average increase of 12.5 bushels (+7.2%). Respectively, these improvements were 3 and 7.4 bushels higher than the commercial standard, which included chemical insecticide, nematicide and fungicides.

For trials targeting corn nematodes, most BSST treatments and the commercial chemical standard reduced nematode populations. Yields for BSST Treatments 1 and 2 averaged 16 and 22 bushels (7.3% and 10.4%) higher than untreated seeds, respectively.  BSST Treatment 2 increased yields by 4.5 bushels over the standard chemical seed treatment (insecticide, nematicide, fungicides).

In soybeans, MBI’s nematicides combined with Groundwork’s mycorrhizal inoculant reduced soybean cyst nematodes as effectively as did the commercial standard treatment.  Yields of BSST-treated soybeans averaged 8 bushels per acre (+15%) higher than those of untreated soybeans.

Groundwork separately tested its Rootella mycorrhizal inoculants in corn, soybeans and lentils in large-scale trials in three Midwestern US states.  These trials confirmed improvements in plant vigor and vitality under abiotic stress conditions, including low fertility soils, lower phosphorous and drought conditions. In soybeans, Rootella provided an increase of 11 bushel/acre (19%), in corn an increase of 32 bushel/acre (30%), and in lentils an increase of 600 lb./acre (33%). In smaller, contracted research trials in Iowa, corn grown with 50% less phosphorous (P) performed at least as well or better than the full P applications. All Rootella trials were performed at commercially recommended application rates, however BSST combinations were not tested for abiotic or low fertility conditions.

While industry estimates vary, the companies estimate the global seed treatment market at $4.2 billion, growing at a compound annual rate of 10% over the next five years. Insecticides currently hold the largest share of this market and the crop protection category is expected to be the fastest growing segment over the next several years.

The Binational Industrial Research and Development Foundation (BIRD), a foundation that supports and encourages cooperation between Israeli and U.S. companies in various areas of technology, selected the collaboration between MBI and Groundwork for partial funding.

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