6 November 1998

Bacterial seed disease control offers benefits to all growers

USING bacteria to control seedling diseases could help conventional and organic growers alike. Research to develop a bacterial sugar beet seed treatment to control damping off is already well advanced.

Christoph Schmidt of Aberdeen Universitys Centre for Organic Agriculture is working as part of a European multi-disciplinary team. At Aberdeen he is investigating the way different environmental conditions affect the survival and effectiveness of four species of antagonistic bacteria.

Other partners in the project are optimising the industrial production of the bacteria, as well as perfecting new seed coatings that permit the survival of both seed and beneficial bacteria.

Apart from replacing less environmentally friendly chemicals in seed treatments, Dr Schmidt believes it could help open up a potential market for organically grown sugar in processed products such as jams and marmalades.

&#8226 Cotton is the worlds first large-scale agronomic crop to be treated with a biological control agent for the suppression of seedling diseases. The "Kodiak" seed treatment protects seedlings against Rhizoctonia and Fusarium, and is also used on beans and cereals in the US. &#42