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Natural root protection

By Staff | Jun 11, 2010

Tristan Mueller, station biologist for Bayer CropScience, offered tips on collecting soil samples to check for corn nematodes.

EARLHAM – Seed treatments have been among the fastest growing categories of crop protection products in the last few years.

Now, a new biological-based seed treatment Poncho/VOTiVO is transforming the way corn plants defend themselves from nematodes and other yield-robbing pests.

BayerScience held a May 26 media-only field day in Dallas County to discuss such seed treatment protection for corn, soybeans and cotton available nest year.

“In recent years, nematode populations have been on the rise in many corn-growing areas, putting yield in jeopardy,” said Kerry Grossweiler, marketing product manager for seed treatments for Bayer CropScience, who noted that yield losses from nematodes can be as high as 30 percent, without any noticeable symptoms above ground. “Poncho/VOTiVO contains a unique strain of bacteria that creates a living barrier that grows with young corn roots to protect seedlings from a wide range of nematode species.”

The bacteria in VOTiVO are applied directly to the seed, Grossweiler explained. There are 10 million spores per seed. Once the seed is planted and the environment is favorable for seed germination, the bacteria begin to grow and multiply.

Ray Knake, manager of Midwest product development for Bayer CropScience, explained the benefits of the new biological-based seed treatment Poncho/VOTiVO during a recent field day at Bayer’s research farm near Earlham.

They continue to increase side-by-side with the developing roots, growing with the plants and creating a natural film that protect roots from nematode damage during the critical stage of plant establishment.

“The seed is protected from the moment it’s planted, and this innovative biological treatment is quite different from traditional chemistries,” said Grossweiler. He said that in 167 field trials across a wide geographic area, Poncho/VOTiVO has delivered a consistent average of six to eight additional bushels per acre over the industry standard.

Labeled for field corn, sweet corn, popcorn, soybeans and cotton, VOTiVO also combines nematode protection with early-season insect control for black cutworms, wireworms, white grubs, chinch bugs and others, thanks to its higher 500 rate of Poncho seed-applied insecticide.

Blocking out nematodes

While nematicides have traditionally been toxic products designed to kill nematodes, Poncho/VOTiVO takes a different approach, said Ray Knake, manager of Midwest product development for Bayer CropScience. The VOTiVO bacteria form a protective barrier around the young root in the rhizosphere (root zone) of the soil. The bacteria, which compete with nematodes for space and food resources, use root exudates – a food source for nematodes, as well as the means that nematodes use to find plant roots.

The seed treatment contains a unique strain of bacteria that creates a living barrier that grows with young corn roots to protect seedlings from a wide range of nematode species.

With VOTiVO, fewer nematodes therefore reach the root surface and some even die from lack of nutrients.

So while VOTiVO does not directly kill nematodes, Knake noted, it renders many of them ineffective.

“The bacteria build a barrier that blocks receptors on the corn roots, which confuses the nematodes,” said Jennifer Riggs, product development manager for Bayer CropScience. “If nematodes can’t find the corn root, they can’t multiply, because they need a root to reproduce future generations.”

Poncho/VOTiVO offers a long span of protection for corn roots, Knake added. A nematode’s lifecycle is about 30 days, meaning it takes 30 days for the first generation to produce the second generation. Poncho/VOTiVO will protect the root from first- and second-generation nematodes.

While VOTiVO wreaks havoc on nematodes, it’s extremely safe to the seed. The germination of seed treated with VOTiVO has been evaluated in the field and in the laboratory using industry-standard germination tests.

These studies have shown Poncho/VOTiVO has no negative impact on germination speed or counts. Storability tests have shown no concerns when carrying seed treated the previous year with Poncho/VOTiVO.

“The product is stable in the container, so there are no special storage issues,” Grossweiler said.

Breaks new ground

Due to the benefits of biological control, this expanding market is making inroads not only in agriculture, but in the lawn and turf industry, as well. A growing number of golf courses are looking at biological treatments to provide a safe, effective method to control pests and diseases, Riggs said.

In addition, Bayer CropScience is evaluating several new biological products for the agricultural market that it plans to release in the next five years.

Pricing for Poncho/VOTiVO will be announced this fall, said Riggs, who noted that Bayer CropScience researchers continue to find new crop protection solutions that will enhance growers’ return on investment.

“While Poncho/VOTiVO brings value to growers in terms in higher yields, there’s still a lot to learn about the mode of action from this strain of bacteria,” Riggs said, “so we continue to work with nematologists across the country, including Greg Tylka at Iowa State University, to understand biological control better.”

You can contact Darcy Dougherty Maulsby by e-mail at yettergirl@yahoo.com.

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