One biological seed treatment for corn from Monsanto came on line in 2017. A second biological seed treatment that complements it awaits U.S. EPA approval, and should be ready for 2019. Why are companies investing in biological products?
Kelli Brown says Acceleron B-300 SAT and Acceleron B-360 ST are producing yield increases and can help customers be more profitable. Brown is Monsanto’s North American Seed-Applied Solutions Portfolio manager.
Here is Farm Progress’ exclusive interview with Brown about these products.
What does the new corn seed treatment do? We expect Acceleron B-360 ST to be approved this spring. It contains a compound known as LCO, which enhances colonization of tiny fungi called mycorrhiza in the soil. These fungal colonies are good at absorbing water. By encouraging colonization, it increases the amount of mycorrhiza attached to roots. The net effect is that roots have more surface area to take up water and nutrients.
You already have one biological seed treatment in the market. Will they work together? Yes. Acceleron B-300 SAT contains an ingredient which breaks bonds between phosphate and calcium ions, making phosphorus more soluble and more available to plants. Once we can couple the two together, we have a system that makes phosphorus more available for plant uptake, and which makes it easier for plant roots to access and take in more water and nutrients.
Do you have yield data on these two products? Yes. Acceleron B-300 SAT increases corn yields by 1 to 2 bushels per acre. When combined with Acceleron B-360 ST, our yield trials over two years indicate a 3.1-bushel-per-acre increase.
Various companies have sold what they call “biological products” for decades. Agronomists question whether some of these products work. Is this a perception you deal with? Yes, we’re aware of the perception. We spend lots of time educating customers about what our new products do. We want them to understand the science behind them.
We help farmers understand that biological products are different than, say, fungicides. A fungicide works on specific diseases. Biological products are typically most effective when there isn’t one clear thing they’re affecting.
They will be more effective in some fields and in some weather environments than others. Year in and year out, we see a yield benefit, but the size of the benefit varies from year to year and area to area. For example, if a field has very high phosphorus levels, phosphorus likely isn’t a limiting factor. We believe these biological seed treatments can be another tool in the toolbox for years when weather throws a curveball or on soils where phosphorus availability is an issue.
Officials in the Lake Erie Basin worry about phosphorus causing algal blooms. Some experts claim phosphorus is more soluble today. Others disagree. Could this be an issue with your products? Our products are sustainable. Once our product makes phosphorus available for plants, it’s taken up quickly and tied up. With improved root growth, we get more top growth, tying up more carbon. That’s a plus for the environment.
What is the cost and availability of these products? Acceleron B-300 SAT now on the market is applied to seed corn by seed companies, and farmers buy a package. It isn’t sold directly to farmers. The same will be true when Acceleron B-360 ST is approved. Seed companies in the Monsanto lineup will offer seed with approved treatments. They’ll also be available to companies through licensing agreements.