The Roles of Carriers in New Biologicals

Posted 09/21/2016

Recently, Farm Industry News featured a story about the work BASF is doing in new biologicals (http://farmindustrynews.com/crop-protection/what-does-bio-control-future-look). Of course, there’s nothing new about the increasing interest in biologicals. There is already a large body of knowledge that describes how biological treatments for crop protection may change the face of agriculture. No one is expecting the traditional chemical inputs to go away, but more and more, the industry is looking for biologicals to fill the gaps in crop protection.

Obviously, the best option for getting a biological treatment exactly where it is needed in the field is to put it on the seed. If the input is on the seed at germination, the treatment is ideally placed to provide the protection needed for the young plant. But what if there’s no room on the seed, or what if there’s already something on the seed that is not compatible with the biological? Or what if the biological needs an extra level of protection?

Biological carriers can fill the gap when the seed cannot carry the treatment itself. American Peat Technology’s bioAPT media is the industry standard for peat-based granular carriers. A large fraction of our granular media carries Rhizobia to pulse crops in North America, and our powdered product is an effective compromise between on-seed and in-furrow application.

There’s nothing novel about using peat to carry Rhizobia. Peat as a carrier was first described in the late 1800’s. Peat offers the bacteria protection during storage and transport so that the Rhizobia arrive at the field healthy and in sufficient numbers to cause adequate nodulation. Peat naturally resists desiccation and can provide a refuge for the Rhizobia if germination is delayed.

But on a new twist to the peat-Rhizobia story, APT is developing a spherical prill-like carrier that can carry Rhizobia just as effectively as our granular crumble. The spherical carrier will eliminate some of the attrition and bridging concerns with the crumble, but even spheronized-06-15-15more intriguing, the spherical carrier can incorporate other ingredients that may be more compatible with different classes of biologicals. If, for instance, Company X identifies an oil-based extract that can treat root rot, our current peat media may not be the best choice of carrier for that extract because it does not have a great affinity for lipids. But APT already has a list of a dozen ingredients that could potentially carry an oily liquid, and it’s not too far a stretch to consider rolling those ingredients into a prill for easy distribution in the furrow.

The use of Rhizobia is well-established in agriculture, but it may be just the tip of the microbial iceberg . As new biologicals are researched and proven, carriers need to evolve to meet the demand if the treatment can’t go on the seed. Even though peat is our middle name, we intend to push up against our self-imposed restraint and bring innovative, needed solutions to market. Unearthing the power of peat? Sure, but we’re a whole lot more.

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