Q&A with Pam Marrone on the World’s First All-Biological Seed Treatment

“(The organic market) is easiest for us to access, because there’s a tremendous amount of competition in the conventional market … which is why we partnered a different microbe with our Albaugh partnership, because everybody and their brother is pursuing biostimulants and pesticidal applications in seed treatments.” –Pam Marrone

Marrone Bio Innovations Inc. and Israel-based Ground­work BioAg earlier this year announced successful field trials of the world’s first all-biological comprehensive seed treatment for pest management. The treatments tested in corn and soybeans contained a mycorrhizal inoculant from Ground­work, called Rootella, as well as a bioinsecticide, a bionematicide, and a biofungicide from Marrone.

The two Biological Stack Seed Treatments (BSST) are comprised of two different insecticidal/nematicidal bacteria, one biostimulant/fungicidal bacterium and mycorrhizal fungi. The addition of Groundwork’s mycorrhizae appear to enhance these microbes. According to Marrone Bio Innovations CEO Pam Marrone, the 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.

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.

The companies plan to expand trials to include biotic stresses such as sudden death syndrome in soybean, as well as Fusarium stalk rot and Pythium in corn and soybeans.

AgriBusiness Global magazine sat down with Marrone to discuss the new product and partnership and what’s next.

AgriBusiness Global: What drove the decision to create an all-biological seed treatment — is this geared toward organic crops or also conventional?
Marrone: Absolutely, the bigger market would be for conventional crops. The idea was to see if someone could actually do it, and show what is happening now with biologicals being stacked with chemicals — that’s also what Albaugh is doing with our microbe in that partnership. It’s a great strategy. I just wanted to see what would happen if we did an all-biological seed treatment to show you don’t actually need chemicals. Some of the chemicals are of concern for pollinators and others and have been subject to regulatory action, so we thought we would try it. We got funding from the Israel-United States Binational Industrial Research and Development (BIRD) Foundation for looking at it and, lo and behold, our first year of field trials showed very good results — that yes, we could actually have the same, or in some cases better, yield increases for corn rootworm control and nematode control than the leading bio-stacked or chemical product.

AgriBusiness Global: Will you target organic first, and when is the launch?
Marrone: I think we will do the markets in parallel. We certainly have an interest in the organic market, because there are no good, real seed treatments for these types of pests. It’s low-hanging fruit. It’s easiest for us to access that, because there’s a tremendous amount of competition in the conventional market, which is also why we partnered a different microbe with our Albaugh partnership for chemical and biological stacked seed treatments, because everybody and their brother is pursuing biostimulants and pesticidal applications in seed treatments. It’s a big market and there’s a lot of growth there. I do see the organic market will be the easier one to penetrate.

With having a BSST — a bio-stack — we thought we could differentiate and have something really different from everybody else, which we do. The low-hanging fruit will be organic, but there’s a lot of interest in the “sustainable” segment. They might be not be organic, but they want to try something different and look at things that are going to enhance their soil health — the microbiome and soil health initiatives. There’s a lot of talk about that in row crops as well as specialty crops. We hear that all the time. The days of just ruining soil health, and being totally ignorant of what microbes are happening and the effect of fertilizer and pesticides on the microbes, and having a low biodiversity in the soil — those days are seen as over.

For the launch, we are targeting 2018. Our microbe is already EPA-registered for seed treatment, but adding Groundwork’s Rootella will require a new product registration. We are trying to submit that this year, and are looking for plots to do larger demo trials, so we are in the hunt for that.

Topics:

Americas

Food IT Fork-to-Farm
Americas

The Mixing Bowl Event Connects Technology, Food, and Ag Innovators

For the fourth consecutive year, The Mixing Bowl presents FOOD IT, under the theme “Fork to Farm.” Action-oriented entrepreneurs, industry

Agrichemicals

Syngenta Launches Plenaris Seed Treatment

Syngenta announced today the launch of Plenaris seed treatment fungicide for the control of downy mildew in sunflower.

Adjuvants

Specialty Chemical Companies Clariant and Huntsman to Merge

Clariant and Huntsman Corp. announced they will combine in a merger of equals through an all-stock transaction.

Agrichemicals

New EPA Approval Expands Monsanto Herbicide Portfolio

Monsanto announced today that EPA has federally approved Harness MAX Herbicide, the first herbicide in the Monsanto portfolio to provide

Americas

Syngenta Appoints North American Seeds Business Leaders

Syngenta announces two strategic leadership appointments for its North American seeds business to better meet customer needs and drive growth.

Americas

Q&A: What BASF’s Latest Foray into Precision Ag Means For Growers

Jeffrey Spencer, BASF's Development Lead for the Digital Farming Group, talks about the implications of the ZedX acquisition for growers, international expansion plans, and more.

Americas

Arysta LifeScience Launches Rio Plant Growth Stimulant

RIO is the newest brand in the company’s BioSolutions portfolio. The product is labeled for various specialty and row crops.

Sonny Perdue
Americas

Sonny Perdue Sworn in as 31st U.S. Secretary of Agriculture

Sonny Perdue was sworn in as the 31st U.S. Secretary of Agriculture by fellow Georgian and Associate Justice of the

Agrichemicals

Syngenta 1st-Qtr Sales Dip on Pricing, Cold Weather

Syngenta reported its first-quarter group sales of $3.7 billion were 1% lower from a year ago, hurt by lower pricing, a cold weather in Northern and Central Europe, and reduced demand for fungicides and herbicides in Brazil and Paraguay.

Agrichemicals

Flying Under the Radar No More, FMC Goes Big

The momentum the company has been building culminated in one of the biggest wins of ag’s latest M&A blitz.

Agrichemicals

FMC Adds California Registration for Rhyme Chemigation Applications

Rhyme fungicide from FMC, registered for a wide range of specialty crops throughout the U.S., received approval from the California

Agrichemicals

FMC to Acquire Portion of DuPont Crop Protection Business

DuPont will acquire FMC Health and Nutrition and receive $1.2 billion in cash.

Adjuvants

New Tank-Mixes Approved with Monsanto’s XtendiMax

Monsanto announced it has received approval for certain glyphosate tank-mixes with XtendiMax herbicide with VaporGrip Technology. The company recently listed

Plantium VADER
Americas

Case Study: How Atlas Correction Service is Positioning Agriculture for Success in Argentina

Plantium in Santa Fe, Argentina, is a full-service provider of precision agricultural guidance systems to some of Argentina’s largest farming

Americas

The Climate Corp., Koch Agronomic Services Collaborate to Provide Deeper Insight to Farmers

Research data agreement to further enhance digital tools to support farmers' efforts to efficiently manage crop nutrients.

Americas

Biostimulants Clamor for a Piece of the Row Crop Market

As companies await word on a new regulatory framework from EPA, biostimulants remain hot.

Americas

Stoller: Biostimulants, PGRs Hot as Growers Look to Gain an Edge

“The view is, ‘Oh, the millennials always look for the newest, best thing, but the older, experienced generation does not.’ And I think that’s a false view of things."

Agrichemicals

Bayer, Monsanto Explore Asset Sale

Bayer and Monsanto are exploring the sale of about $2.5 billion of assets as they seek regulatory approval for their $66 billion

Americas

Dow Launches New Insect Trait Technology

PowerCore is the latest addition to the Dow AgroSciences corn insect trait portfolio.

Latest News

Agrichemicals

Albaugh Partners on Herbicide-Tolerant Wheat Production System

CoAxium Wheat Production System is a joint collaboration driven to deliver innovative and novel solutions for wheat producers in North America and beyond.

Agrichemicals

Syngenta Seed Treatment Insecticide Gets EPA Approval

The active ingredient in Fortenza, cyantraniliprole, is labeled to protect against above- and below-ground insects.

Agrichemicals

Syngenta Seeking Approval for New Dicamba Premix

Upon registration by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the herbicide will be marketed as Tavium® plus VaporGrip® Technology (Tay-vee-um).

Americas

The Mixing Bowl Event Connects Technology, Food, and Ag Innovators

For the fourth consecutive year, The Mixing Bowl presents FOOD IT, under the theme “Fork to Farm.” Action-oriented entrepreneurs, industry

Asia

Acadian Plant Health Launches Biostimulants, BioSwitch Technology in India

Acadian Plant Health (APH), a division of Acadian Seaplants Ltd. (ASL), announces new partnerships and the launch of its biostimulants