KWS scientists Nora Temme (left) and Mario Matthias Schumann working on trials with biologicals.
Einbeck (December 6, 2018) - A major advance for sustainable agriculture: Using a new method, KWS is the first company to make long-lasting seed capsules containing biologicals. These can now be applied with ease to sugarbeet, rape, rye, and potato seed products. The method works with a large number of useful substances and microorganisms.
Biologicals include microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi whose metabolites have a positive impact on plants. Biologicals can strengthen crops’ growth helping to increase yield while also promoting stress resistance (such as disease).
Higher yields, especially under stress conditions
After the crops have been sown, the microorganisms multiply at the roots and help create favorable growth conditions for the plants. “We’ve tested this method successfully and will gradually put it into use for our seed and make it available to farmers. Farmers can then benefit from higher yields, especially under stress conditions such as drought or in marginal soils,” said Peter Hofmann, the KWS Executive Board member whose field of responsibility includes sugarbeet.
One of the forces driving development of the method is the continuing trend towards more sustainable agriculture, in which fewer chemicals are used in the field. KWS has successfully conducted research on biologicals together with scientists from the Technical University of Graz for more than ten years – and can now apply them better to the seed. The advantage over previous methods is that the microorganisms attach themselves to the seed and stay active for at least two years in this form.
To enable this, the scientists designed a biological gel. This gel creates microscopic capsules that harbor the microorganisms in their interior. “We only apply the microorganisms to the seed in this well-protected form,” explained Hofmann. Alternatively, the microcapsules can also be dispersed in water and sprayed on plants so that their positive effects can be leveraged.
This method developed by the Technical University of Graz and its spin-off Biotenzz has now been licensed exclusively to KWS for sugarbeet, rapeseed, rye and potatoes. “This cooperation shows once more that we also work well with external partners to supply farmers with the best-possible seed,” added Hofmann. An independent, family-run company, KWS is researching many highly promising approaches to enable sustainable agriculture – and biologicals are part of that initiative.
Up to 5 percent higher
Further testing of the biologicals capsulation technology on seeds in the field showed that sugarbeet yield was stable and up to 5 percent higher in marginal soils and drought stressed plants, in comparison to groups of plants where biologicals were not used. “That shows that biologicals help strengthen plants’ tolerance to climate extremes and protect yields,” said Hofmann. “In this way, we’re also responding to changing climatic conditions, such as long periods of drought.”