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Seed treatments for organic vegetable production

With organic farming, it is difficult to produce pathogen-free seeds, and there is a lack of simple, effective, non-chemical methods for seed sanitation. This results in a substantial proportion of the seeds used by Europe's organic vegetable growers still being derived from conventional production, which since 2003 has been against regulations (EU Council Regulation 2092/91). This project will test two new physical seed treatment methods in relation to the traditional method of hot water treatment. Agents of natural origin that are acceptable to organic farming will be evaluated and combined with the physical methods. This will be complemented by studies on physiological factors determining seed sensitivity, which, in many cases, limits the application of physical seed treatments.

The objective of the project is to improve the current non-chemical methods for controlling seed-borne vegetable pathogens, and to develop new methods that are acceptable to organic farming. This will be achieved by:
1) optimising and adapting existing physical methods for the treatment of seeds of different vegetable crops, and characterising the physiological factors determining the sensitivity of seeds
2) assessing the suppressive activity of micro-organisms, resistance-inducing agents and plant extracts towards pathogens on vegetable seeds, and evaluating how they effect plant growth
3) comparing physical seed-treatment methods, selected micro-organisms, resistance inducing agents and plant extracts with regard to efficacy against seed-borne pathogens and seed vitality
4) developing combinations of physical seed treatment methods with seed applications of micro-organisms or resistance-inducing agents.

Progress to Date
Suitable seed lots were characterised and identified, and used in the different laboratories. Tests to determine the effect of physical treatments on germination of seeds were begun, using peas as a model for analysis of mitochondria.
Adaptation of the treatment parameters of the electron treatment with the new treatment device has been carried out, and suitable parameters for non-phytotoxicity were selected using healthy seed. Infested seed was used for treatment of suitable parameters. Hot air treatments were evaluated. Bioassays were performed for selection of alternative treatments.


Scientist responsible for the project

Heinrichstr. 243
64287 Darmstadt
Germany - DE

Phone: +49 6151407227
Fax: +49 6151407290


Project ID QLRT-2001-02239
Organisation The Federal Biological Research Centre for Agriculture and Forestry
Area 5.1.1
Start date 01 March 2003
Duration (months) 36
Total cost 2 353 413 €
Total EC contribution   1 697 664 €
Status Ongoing
Web address of the project

The partners

  • Institute for Integrated Plant Protection, Germany - DE

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