Why Seed Treatments are Growing Globally

By Lynn Grooms

The global seed treatment market is expected to reach more than $6 billion by 2020, according to a new study by market research firm Mordor Intelligence. Fungicide seed treatments are expected to have the fastest annual growth — 9.5% — in the next five years. Meanwhile, the market for non-chemical seed treatments — such as biologicals — is expected to grow by 10% annually. Several options are available to protect major food crops such as corn, soybeans, rice and wheat. Seed treatment developers indicate that more are in the pipeline.

Chemical and biological combination products are used in millions  of hectares of corn in the U.S.

Chemical and biological combination products are used in millions of hectares of corn in the U.S.

A number of U.S. soybean acres this year have been planted with ILeVO (active ingredient: fluopyram), on the seed. ILeVO is one of the newest fungicide seed treatments from Bayer CropScience, which received registration from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in December 2014. This seed treatment has generated interest because of its activity against the Fusarium virguliforme fungus that causes Sudden Death Syndrome (SDS) in soybeans, said Jennifer Riggs, product development manager, Bayer SeedGrowth. The seed treatment also provides activity against nematodes. The active ingredient in ILeVO is absorbed by the germinating seed and is taken up by the plant to protect against the fungus in the early stages of the plant’s growth.

Bayer SeedGrowth’s Evergol Energy fungicide seed treatment also has been approved for use in the United States. It contains three active ingredients for the control of Fusarium, Rhizoctonia, and smuts and bunts in cereals.

Bayer’s isotianil fungicide seed treatment for rice is used in several Asian countries. It is one of the few products that has been approved for control of rice blast.
DuPont is in global development with Lumisena fungicide seed treatment to protect against Phytophthora root rot and downy mildew in corn, soybeans and sunflowers.

“We’ve seen innovation coming into the market and expect demand for fungicide seed treatments will continue to grow because of that improved performance,” said Marc Treurniet, marketing manager, DuPont Seed Treatment Enterprise.


DuPont’s X-100 controls rice water weevils and late-season stem borers.

Companies also see the potential for increased use of fungicide seed treatments with hybrid wheat, expected to be commercialized sometime in the next five to 10 years. As the value of wheat increases, growers will be looking more to protect their investment, said Steve Bergschneider, U.S. seed treatment marketing lead for BASF. The company’s Stamina fungicide seed treatment was developed to provide control of Rhizoctonia, Pythium and Fusarium in wheat and barley. The product also is used in corn.
In general, the outlook for fungicide seed treatments is good, especially for use on soybeans in Latin America and cereals in Europe, added Gregory Ginisty, product manager, Bayer SeedGrowth.

Extended Protection
Meanwhile, being able to protect plants throughout the growing season is one of the reasons for the growth in biological seed treatments, said Dan Custis, chief executive officer, Advanced Biological Marketing (ABM). More chemical companies also are using biologicals in combination with chemical-based seed treatments. Growers often prefer combination fungicide seed treatments to foliar fungicides, Custis said. “The use of seed treatments has just touched the tip of the iceberg in the United States, Southeast Asia, South Africa and central South America,” he added.

ABM has worldwide proprietary rights to four strains of Trichoderma fungi, which colonize plant roots. Two of ABM’s strains are specific to corn and two are specific to cereal grains. The Trichoderma feed on the plant’s sugars, and then exude enzymes the plant can use. This helps to produce a larger root system which helps boost nitrogen uptake as well as disease resistance, Custis said.

ABM’s products, such as SabrEx for corn, cotton and wheat, are on the Organic Materials Review Institute’s product list. Outside of the United States, this often carries more weight with growers than does EPA registration, Custis said.

Palle Pedersen, head of seedcare product marketing at Syngenta, does not think that biologicals will necessarily outpace chemical seed treatments; instead they will be used as supplements to chemicals. This is because they will bring unique attributes to growers in addition to what is currently covered by chemicals, Pedersen said.

In 2012, Syngenta acquired Pasteuria Bioscience Inc., which has developed ways to produce Pasteuria spp. spores at a commercial scale. Pasteuria spp. are natural bacterial obligate parasites of nematodes with a unique mode of action, Pedersen said. In 2014, Syngenta introduced the Clariva Pn seed treatment to provide season-long protection against soybean cyst nematode.

Recognizing the potential, Bayer acquired three companies involved in the development of biologicals over the last few years. These include the American AgraQuest, Germany’s Prophyta and Argentina’s Biagro Group, the latter of which focused on inoculants.

Bayer’s Ginisty added that the company’s Poncho/Votivo, with both chemical and biological components, is used on millions of acres of corn in the United States. It also is used on soybeans and cotton.

“We see crop biologicals as part of an integrated management approach to control pests,” said Frank DeGennaro, director, DuPont Biologicals. Several Pioneer corn seed and soybean seed products sold in North America are treated with biological seed treatments to contribute to improved stand, plant vigor and yield, he said.

A new cross business venture of DuPont, DuPont Biologicals will develop and market biological products for seed, soil and foliar applications in major row crops, fruits and vegetables around the world. “These new offerings will continue to complement and enhance our technology in genetics, seed treatment and crop protection,” DeGennaro said.

Insect, Nematode Control
“We expect double-digit growth globally in seed treatment products designed to help reduce losses due to insect and nematode damage,” DuPont’s Treurniet said. “We’ve already seen double-digit growth in seed treatments largely due to increased grower demand. Planting treated seed protects the genetic potential of the seed, and applications have been improved to enhance seed flow through handling and planting systems.”

With emerging technologies, such as anthranilic diamides, DuPont expects growth in insecticide/nematicide seed treatments to outpace fungicide seed treatments, even with retraction of neonicotinoids in some markets, said Alex Cochran, research director, DuPont Seed Treatment Enterprise. Anthranilic diamides provide a unique mode of action to control Lepidopteran insects. The alternative mode of action makes them valuable in preventing insecticide resistance and protecting against previously-uncontrolled pests like Helicoverpa, Cochran said.

Last year in Brazil, DuPont’s Dermacor seed treatment was granted emergency registration for control of Helicoverpa spp. in soybeans. Since 2008, its Dermacor X-100 seed treatment for rice has been used in Asia to control rice water weevil and late-season stem borers.

“We’re seeing more growth for nematicide seed treatments in the U.S. as growers become more aware that it’s a good addition to resistance management programs in soybeans, corn and cotton. We’ll continue to see growth in this market for a number of years,” Bayer’s Ginisty said.

Growers worldwide are seeing consistent yield response with insecticide and nematicide seed treatments over fungicide alone, and then often adopt insecticide-nematicide-fungicide seed treatments, Syngenta’s Pedersen said. In addition to Clariva Pn, Syngenta’s Avicta nematicide seed treatment is being used in Brazil and the United States.
Finally, seed treatments to enhance root health have become increasingly important. One reason is that strong, healthy root systems help plants better withstand drought as well as very wet conditions, Pedersen said.

Syngenta’s Vibrance, for example, features Rooting Power technology to provide long-lasting root protection under biotic and abiotic stresses. The active ingredient in Vibrance is sedaxane, a member of the SDHI class of fungicides. It helps protect against Rhizoctonia root rot in several crops.