News
July 8, 2016
Monsanto replaces vegetable seed coating with more sustainable potato starch
Tomato seeds with potato starch seed coating

Tomato seeds with potato starch seed coating that protects the seed and young plant from pests and disease. These coatings normally have colours to help identification of treated seeds and can make seed storage, handling and measurement easier.

Contrary to what many may think environmentally sustainable solutions are being developed by our researchers in Europe. Take conventional vegetable seeds for example; from tomato to onion seeds — when certain types of seed are planted on European farmland they require treatment to protect them from the environment in their nascent states. Small doses of plant protection products are applied and stick to the seeds. These are synthetic-based seed coatings. Now Monsanto Europe researchers have successfully tested potato starch as an environmentally friendly alternative.

Traditional coatings (sometimes called seed treatment or dressings) used for vegetable seeds are typically based on synthetic components. These seed coatings are applied evenly on seed surfaces to meet a number of needs. This includes helping plant protection products to stay on the seeds, or to help seeds ‘flow’ in plant machinery during processing, or to keep plant protectants in place during transport and enabling precise sowing of individual seeds for better crop yields during harvests.

Plant protection products that are applied include fungicides and insecticides which protect the seed, as it emerges as a young plant (seedling), from diseases and pests and reduces the need to spray entire fields with pesticides. But one downside of using traditional seed coatings are that dust particles from the coating naturally disconnect from the seed and stray into the wider environment.

Diagram of how Monsanto Europe turns potatoes are turned into vegetable seed coatings.

Diagram of how Monsanto Europe transforms potatoes into vegetable seed coatings.

While impact on the environment is minimal due to the tiny amounts of dust that does stray there is a need for more control of traditional seed coatings. Monsanto’s researchers in Europe therefore worked on the concept of a new coating based on side-stream potato starch, which is potato starch produced as a by-product from potato processing of chips or French fries.

After several internal technical trials at Monsanto, results showed the potato starch seed coating has excellent dust reduction properties, especially for seed-handling staff. This coating represents a sustainable and renewable alternative to synthetic coatings offering social benefits for both plant raisers, who produce young plants for glasshouse growers, and Monsanto seed-processing operators.

This coating reduces the environmental impact from current raw materials and is a more sustainable way to manage waste. Also all these benefits come without any additional cost to the consumer, grower or farmer. The development of this easier-to-work-with and sustainable seed coating was done by Monsanto’s Production Technology Team for Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA).

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