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Demonstration of a biologically sustainable and environmentally high-precision thermal seed treatment method

Contract nr: FAIR-CT97-3664
Project nr: 3664
Project type: SD
Starting date: 01/02/1998
Duration: 45 months
Total cost: 1,006,810 EUR
EC Contribution: 834,241 EUR
Scientific Officer: Alkmini KATSADA
Research topic: Plant health
Acronym: DEST

The overall purpose of this project is to present a new, innovative seed treatment method - partly based on the old way of seed treatment by hot water - for disease sanitation of seeds. This new, successful approach can be described as heat treatment by high precision, without having to dry the seeds after the process. It is competitive with ordinary chemical seed treatments in terms of both efficacy and commercial potential, as proven by pilot tests. The idea presented is regarded as promising for successful commercialisation, but before private investment is made, there is a great need to demonstrate the efficiency of this new technology in field experiments in different countries, to gain international acceptance. There is also a need to evaluate some biological parameters in more depth, and to test and validate the effect of the method on a range of plant material and in the different climate zones of Europe.

The project - a cooperation between biological, engineering and commercial partners - is aimed at conducting the experiments needed and to bring this new technology to the market (farmers, cooperatives, seed companies etc.).

The objectives of this demonstration project are:

1) to demonstrate a new environmentally friendly and economically sustainable seed treatment method for controlling seed borne diseases of cereals and rice;
2) to support the European agriculture in reducing the use of pesticides;
3) to increase the knowledge - and accelerate the adoption - of the new treatment method in Europe;
4) to encourage EC industries, by disseminating deliverables and results, to develop prototypes and to commercialise the technical systems, to make them available for practical use;
5) to increase the scientific knowledge about seed sanitation by heat treatment, which will be the basis for an extension to its use, in the future, on non-cereal seeds.

These objectives completely comply with the goals and priorities described in paragraphs 4.1.1, 4.1.2 and 4.4.1 of the Work Programme. European agriculture is in great need of finding new non-chemical methods for controlling plant diseases. The main benefits are meeting the public demand for less risk from chemicals in food production, less pesticides in our environment, and in solving the problem of the development of pathogen resistance to chemical compounds. The development of non-chemical methods for decreasing incidence of seed borne diseases is especially important for ecological farming.

Current situation/results:
The project has so far developed very successfully and according to plan. After two years of the project, an original piece of prototype equipment has been produced. Further, two high performance pieces of working seed treatment equipment are now available: demonstration equipment with a capacity of 1000 kg per hour and a model where up to 100 g of seeds may be adequately treated for experimental purposes. These systems have been substantially modified and improved by continously using the new biological data and knowledge concerning treatment effects gathered within the project. Similarly, there have been refinements to the software regulating the process and the mechanics of the equipment.

A substantial amount of experimental heat treatment of healthy seeds of various crops and cultivars - collected from different European locations - and subsequent germination testing, have been completed. A concise result report based on this data has been prepared. The results of this biological testing have conclusively shown that, in addition to crop species, the water content of the seeds is a critical factor determining at which temperature germination is affected. They also clearly indicate that the handling of seed lots before they are heat treated in the equipment (storage methods, harvesting conditions) may have more impact on heat sensitivity than, for example, the cultivar. Since these are somewhat unexpected results, a number of specific studies connected to the project, but not financed by it, have been started to further study such interactions.

Therefore, after finding the maximum treatment temperatures where seed germination is not affected, subsequent testing of pathogen-infested seed lots from various crops, and infested with a number of different fungal pathogens, is under way and running fully according to plan. Pathogen-infested seeds from all countries involved are heat treated at three different temperatures and then returned to respecitve partner for testing of treatment effects on pathogen infections. In several cases these treated seed lots have also been tested in full-scale field experiments, to demonstrate the effects of the treatment.

During the project, significant and increasing interest in this treatment method has been shown by various European companies, farmers and organisations - not least from organic farming organisations. This has led to several informal meetings and oral information sessions in addition to those planned within the project, where the method tested and commercial possibilities were discussed. Several commercial organisations have also asked for pilot, or test treatments, of various non-cereal seeds, including vegetable, sugar beet and forest tree seeds, and even non-seeds such as malt barley. This has also been done to a certain degree, when equipment time has been available. In addition, scientists in countries outside those taking part in the project have declared their interest in collaborating with this project.


Sveriges Lantbruksuniversitet
Plant Pathology and Biocontrol Unit
P. O. Box 7035
S-750 07 Uppsala
Tel.: +46 18 67 16 00
Fax: +46 18 67 16 90


    The Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University
    Bülowsvej 13
    DK-1870 Frederiksberg C
    Tel.: +45 35 28 34 54
    Fax: +45 35 28 21 75

  • Quirico MIGHELI
    Universita' degli Studi di Torino
    Via Verdi 8
    I-10100 Torino
    Tel.: +39 011 670 85 40
    Fax: +39 011 670 85 41

  • Eckhard KOCH
    Federal Biological Research Centre for Agriculture and Forestry
    Messeweg 11-12
    D-38104 Braunschweig
    Tel.: +49 615 140 72 27
    Fax: +49 615 140 72 90

    Acanova Ltd
    Nämndemansvägen 32
    S-75757 Uppsala
    Tel.: +46 18 67 15 66
    Fax: +46 18 38 53 74

  • Wilfried HARTL
    Oludwig Boltzmann-Gesellschaft Österreichische vereinigung zur Förderung der Wissenschaftlichenforschung (Non Profit Research Development organisation)
    Zuckerbäckerstiege Hofburg
    A-1014 Vienna
    Tel.: +43 1 795 149 79 40
    Fax: +43 1 795 14 73 93

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