Part 1: What does Bacon have to do with Plant Nutrition?

Written on 04/08/16

The leading experts in the field of plant nutrition have long reported, for the major crops grown around the world, that seeds are nutrient imbalanced and can benefit from the fortification of essential nutrients as part of the seed coating. This international research shows that nutrient fortification increases germination, seedling vigor, rooting, and overall crop productivity. 

The History of Seed Nutrient Dressing 

The value of enriching seed with nutrition was first documented back in 1626 by Sir Francis Bacon. At the time, Sir Bacon soaked seeds in a “nutrient” solution that is a little crude by today’s standards. It included a blend of animal dung, human urine, chalk and wine which provided a stimulatory effect on the young seedling 

The value of enriching seed dates back to Sir Francis Bacon in 1626 (above). 

Fast forward four centuries and technology has transformed that initial “blend” both in performance and user convenience. Today many countries, including China, India, Europe and Australia, have taken Sir Bacon’s findings and have enriched cereals and rice seed with essential nutrients such as Zinc (Zn) and/or Iron (Fe) with fantastic results. 

 In North America and especially in Canada, treating seed with nutrition is still a young market.  Over the past 30+ years, there has been significant research focused on adding biological populations to the seed (eg.Bacillus, Penicillium) to provide a plant stimulating effect; but none of these organisms are a replacement for the essential nutrients required by seed. The good news is considerable research has been done to determine the essential nutrients required to balance the seed and ultimately maximize seedling vigor. 

 What Nutrients are required to be added to the Seed? 

 When we analyze Sir Bacon’s original work, we can replace his sources of nutrients with today’s synthetic versions and various biological activators. Working in conjunction with leading nutritionists, we have determined the key essential nutrients required to overcome the imbalances within the seed. These essential nutrients include: Zinc, Phosphorus, Manganese, Boron, and Calcium. Let’s not forget the biological activators that improve the efficiency of these nutrients and provide a stimulatory effect; just like Sir Bacon did with wine. It is critical to understand that the amount of each nutrient and the ratio between nutrients will vary from crop to crop.  

 Zinc (Zn) When the seed starts to germinate it takes in water and this initiates numerous enzymatic activities. Zinc is the key nutrient that drives these processes including auxin production. During germination, all of the nutrients required for initial root and shoot growth are stored within the seed. If the seed has low zinc levels there will be a reduction in early season vigor and root development. 

Phosphorus (P) When we consider Zinc, we should always look at it in association with P, as both nutrients have a synergistic effect on the plant. Phosphorus is critical for photosynthesis (ATP production) and drives early season rooting. Phosphorus needs to be placed on the seed or in very close proximity to the seed since it is not a mobile nutrient and not readily available, especially in cold soils. 

Manganese (Mn) is critical for photosynthesis. During this process, its primary role is to split the water molecules. Manganese is also involved in the lignin production within the plant. Low levels of Manganese will lead to poor photosynthetic activity, resulting in a smaller root system and a “limp” above ground portion of the seedling. 

Boron (B) is mainly associated with pollen production but is also important during the plant’s early life. If a plant is Boron deficient the root system will have very poor cell wall integrity and a lot of amino acids, sugars and Potassium (K) that are moved from leaves down to the roots will be released into the rhizosphere rather than being utilized by the roots. The end result is the soil pathogens benefit from the release of metabolites and the plant has poor root health. 

Calcium (Ca) is important for cell wall integrity and overall strength of both the roots and the leaves.. Calcium needs to be correlated to Boron levels to insure the proper ratios are established to maximize seedling strength, plant health and ultimately overall vigor. 


Continued on next blog post, Part 2: "What should we expect from treating Seed with Nutrition?" 

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