Nuseed Seed Treatment Technology Initiative

Providing the latest research and information on crop production to sunflower growers, such as new products and practices, is vital says Jeff Coultas, a consulting agronomist overseeing the Nuseed® Seed Treatment Technology Initiative. Seed treatment technologies assessed in the Nuseed initiative are evaluated for many criteria, including growth enhancement and protection from pests or disease, depending on the technology’s purpose, as well as sunflower yield, oil content, seed size, and hybrid performance. 

However, the project’s primary objective is to evaluate the response of Nuseed hybrids to seed treatment technologies, says Coultas. “Nuseed has initiated this type of project to evaluate how these seed treatments work, but more importantly, to determine if they have any effect on their product, which is the seed,” says Coultas. “As a seed provider, you want to be sure there aren’t any unforeseen interactions that could influence the genetics.” 

For example, seed treatment fungicides Plenaris and Intego®, and the microbial seed inoculant QuickRoots®, among others, were tested on three sunflower hybrids and across multiple locations in 2017. Preliminary data indicates no negative crop response to these products across all hybrids and locations. 

Nuseed’s seed treatment initiative also includes studies on flowability, plantability and seed storage, as any substance added to the seed could potentially affect an aspect of crop production, such as seed singulation and spacing. This information is valuable to growers, says Ross Hakes, Nuseed’s sales and strategic marketing manager. “Nuseed wants to give growers the best products available. We need to provide them with the best experience for growing sunflowers.” 

Downy Mildew Field Trials 

All downy mildew field trials included three sunflower hybrids, two oil and one confection, and were carried out on replicated plots at several locations in North Dakota, Minnesota and South Dakota, representing a broad base of genetic backgrounds and sunflower production areas. 

Nuseed contracted field trials to assess CruiserMaxx® Sunflower with Plenaris on downy mildew control and crop response at three North Dakota State University (NDSU) sites – the efficacy field trials were carried out at Carrington, N.D., while traditional yield trials were conducted at Langdon and Minot, N.D. The field at the Carrington site was previously inoculated with spores causing downy mildew (Plasmopara halsedii) and irrigated at planting to heighten disease pressure. 

Nuseed also carried out field trials to evaluate CruiserMaxx Sunflower with Plenaris on crop stand and vigor at test plot sites in Galchutt and Garrison, N.D.; Red Lake Falls, Minn.; and Hoven, S.D. 

Field trial results indicated no negative crop responses to Plenaris across all hybrids and locations. Also, crop stand and vigor were not adversely affected by the seed treatment fungicide. NDSU has evaluated Plenaris efficacy on downy mildew since 2011 under intense downy mildew pressure. Their results confirmed its superior efficacy. 

Adding new seed treatment technologies to the seed, such as Plenaris, helps stay one step ahead of diseases, like downy mildew, that have many races and can adapt to overcome protection practices. For example, since 1980, downy mildew races have overcome some downy mildew resistance traits in sunflower hybrids and have become insensitive to chemistries used to control the disease. Although crop rotation is effective for other sunflower diseases such as sclerotinia, rust and phomopsis, rotation has minimal effect on downy mildew management because overwintering spores will survive in the soil up to 10 years. 

“Downy mildew is a primary example of a disease that can overcome all the control mechanisms, whether it’s crop rotation, genetic resistance or seed treatments. It’s important to keep presenting new control tactics to keep it in check. It has the propensity to come forward with new races,” says Coultas. “Because this is an adaptive organism, we need lots of tools. To manage it effectively, we continually need new resistance genes as well as novel fungicides.” 

Novel Active Ingredient and Multiple Modes of Action 

In 2018, Nuseed sunflower producers will have another tool to manage downy mildew. Syngenta’s seed treatment fungicide Plenaris will be available on select Nuseed sunflower hybrids. Plenaris is currently registered for use in the United States in key sunflower states, and features a new active ingredient, oxathiapiprolin, and mode of action, FRAC Group F9, for downy mildew control. Registration is pending in Canada. 

Field trial results indicate Plenaris is highly effective on downy mildew. Essentially, we’re looking at almost complete control across all of the most prevalent downy mildew races in sunflowers, states Coultas. The fungicide’s efficacy has been evaluated in numerous independent field trials, including the Nuseed Seed Treatment Technology Initiative’s assessment for crop safety, yield and efficacy. 

Plenaris is combined with Dynasty® fungicide, providing multiple modes of action for resistance management and enhanced downy mildew control. 

Cooperation is Key 

Building and maintaining academic partnerships, like the one between Nuseed and the NDSU Extension Service, is an important element to developing, testing and implementing new tools for sunflower production, says Coultas. “It’s integral to the whole product development process to be able to work with interested, competent, academic personnel for credible third-party data for industry and growers to rely on. NDSU runs a top-notch academic program and is very effective across the board, but particularly with sunflowers – where there aren’t many people doing work.” 

Academic partners, such as NDSU, are involved in many aspects of sunflower production research, and have been particularly helpful generating field trial data, says Coultas. Data that helps provide tools, like Plenaris, to growers. 

Hakes says the Nuseed Seed Treatment Technology Initiative will continue to test new technologies, helping to put new tools in growers’ hands to meet their sunflower production goals. “We want to continue to identify new technologies coming to market, and make them available to our customers. We need to do that as a company. Just as we would bring new hybrids to market, we need to bring the best seed treatments and technologies to market as well,” says Hakes.