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New research shows biostimulant can boost pulse performance

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Interagro (UK) Ltd is a leading manufacturer of tank-mix adjuvants, water conditioners and biostimulants that help farmers achieve more sustainable and profitable food production through superior plant health.

The findings from a new study conducted at the University of Nottingham have shown that treating bean and pea seeds with the biostimulant seed treatment, Newton, could improve germination by up to two days.

Pulses have found themselves in the spotlight lately, as both arable and livestock farmers seek to find more sustainable sources of home-grown protein due to pressure across the industry to move away from imported soya as a result of its environmental impact.

While peas and beans do have the potential to replace some of this soya, growing the crops is often met with apprehension due to their lack of competitiveness and unpredictability in performance.

However, new research carried out by Dr Steve Rossall at the University of Nottingham has shown that growers can improve the prospects for pulses by treating seed with the biostimulant, Newton.

Newton, from Interagro, is a biostimulant seed treatment which contains unique stimulating peptides that stimulate plants to thrive, explains Stuart Sutherland, technical manager at Interagro.

“Managing the balance of growth-promoting hormones versus growth-inhibiting hormones, Newton not only triggers faster germination, it also signals enhanced root and shoot growth and the defence systems of plants.”

The trial

The latest research, carried out in January, follows on from a host of successful trials with Newton, carried out by Dr Rossall, across a wide range of crops.

Stuart says he hopes these findings open doors for existing and prospective pulse growers.

“Over the past few years, we’ve invested in a huge amount of research at the University of Nottingham and in independent replicated field trials, demonstrating the strengths of Newton in cereals,” he says.

“This latest research shows Newton is equally valuable in peas and beans, if not more so given the lack of available crop protection products in these important spring crops.”

Turning focus to the trial itself, as peas and beans are not particularly competitive in their early stages, getting plants up and away can be crucial for optimising establishment.

Therefore, Dr Rossall looked specifically at the effect of Newton on speed of pea and bean germination and found significant benefits.

Seed germination was determined by placing 20 seeds, in groups of 10, in a 15cm square petri dish lined with blue filter paper and moistened with 20 mililitres of water.

Each interaction of 10 seeds was replicated 10 times. As the seeds were large, an additional 10 mililitres of water was provided after two days.

Petri dishes were incubated at 6°C and assessed at daily intervals for up to eight days of incubation.

The seed was determined to have germinated when the radicle was visible. At each time, the number of seeds out of 10 which had germinated was determined for each dish.

The mean score from all 10 dishes were calculated and multiplied by 10 to provide a percentage germination.

In both peas and beans, Newton was found to increase germination by 1.5 and 2 days, respectively – compared with untreated seeds.

Chart showing the increased speed of bean germination

© University of Nottingham

“Across the growing season, these additional two days could have a significant impact, particularly with how unpredictable weather patterns have been,” says Stuart.

“Getting pulses up and out of the ground quicker and stronger is going to put them in the best position for whatever lies ahead.”

Root and shoot benefits

Newton’s germination-enhancing benefits go hand-in-hand with its proven advantages on root and shoot growth, as observed in 2023 trials by Dr Rossall.

Comparison of treated roots

© Interagro

The findings showed significant root growth increases in both peas and beans when treated with Newton, with increases of 28% and 64% on average, respectively, explains Stuart.

“In the beans, rhizobium was included in the growing compost. These bacteria colonise the roots of leguminous plants which, in response, produce a swelling on the roots called nodules.

“It is inside these nodules that the bacteria fix nitrogen and convert it to ammonia, which is crucial for plant growth and development.

“Dr Rossall found that Newton significantly increased the number of root nodules – by 66% – meaning Newton increases nitrogen use efficiency in beans too.”

Charts showing increases in rooting and root nodule number

© University of Nottingham

Stuart concludes that there is a real opportunity in pulses for both growers and the wider environment, but using tools like Newton will be vital for pushing their performance.

“Pulses are a tricky crop, there is no doubt about that. But when we start bringing in tools like Newton it becomes easier to mitigate some of that risk and unlock the crop’s full potential.”

To find out more

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Call Stuart on 07384 460352.