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Seed treatment beats ‘cold snap’

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A revolutionary seed treatment that activates the plant’s own immune defences before the onset of disease has been credited with helping to save a cotton crop in southern Queensland last season.

Glenn Rogan – together with his wife, Julieanne, and parents, Graeme and Robyn – grows up to 600 hectares of irrigated cotton in brown self-mulching clay soils at “Benelong”, St George.

The family also grows wheat, corn and sunflowers and run 350 cattle on their 2000ha property.

Last season, with restricted water supplies, they grew about 400ha of cotton comprising two-thirds Bollgard* insect resistant varieties and one-third conventional varieties.

The Rogans had elected to treat their seed with Bion seed treatment, which protects emerging plants from the damaging effects of Fusarium Wilt and Black Root Rot.

By inhibiting the onset of disease, it restricts the opportunity for infection and allows seedlings to concentrate their energy resources on growth during the crucial establishment phase.

Australian trials have confirmed that Bion seed treatment not only reduces the incidence of disease, but significantly improves crop quality, uniformity and yield.

Despite their best intentions, the Rogans were caught short and elected to plant untreated seed in one block, however, the unsavoury combination of deep sowing and then an unusually cold snap put paid to any hopes for the crop, which had to be replanted.

Mr Rogan is cautious in attributing the result solely to the use of the seed treatment, but readily admits it played a clear role.

“There were other factors in play,” he said. “The untreated seed was left over from the previous season and was sown deeper than it should have been and had to be watered up.”

“Although it germinated well in a home test, there was very little emergence and all of it – even the stuff that actually emerged – all had to be replanted.

“Against this, some of the seed treated with Bion was also planted too deep but it still came up. It was the only portion that did not have to be replanted.

“I can’t give Bion all the credit but it is obvious that the seed treated with Bion stood up to the unusually cold conditions at the start of the season much better than the untreated seed.”

Bion seed treatment also plays an important role in Mr Rogan’s integrated management program to suppress the incidence of Fusarium Wilt, a relatively common disease on the Darling Downs.

“We had an outbreak of Fusarium eight years ago,” he said. “We have isolated the area and haven’t grown a crop there since.”

“We carry out all the good hygiene practices like washing machinery down between paddocks, and we haven’t had another diagnosis of Fusarium. “We’re now using Bion on the basis that prevention is much better than having to find a cure for Fusarium.

Used in combination with resistant cotton varieties, we’ve found Bion is an effective preventative measure.

“It also improves seedling vigour – and it’s too late to think about seedling vigour after you’ve had a cold, wet snap at planting.”

Mr Rogan said the Syngenta -CSD Bion R&D Fund, which commits seven cents from every kilogram of seed treated with Bion to research on early season disease and insect control, was an added factor in his decision to use Bion seed treatment.

“We like supporting businesses that go into bat with us,” he said.

The Rogans have also been using the insecticidal seed treatment, Cruiser, for the past five years to protect their cotton against early season sucking pests such as thrips and aphids.

Cruiser controls aphids, thrips and wireworm for four to eight weeks, protecting seedlings from germination right through to stand establishment.

The active ingredient also dissipates into the surrounding soil, forming a protective “halo” around the seed.

Trials have shown that Cruiser provides more effective and longer control of insect pests than other treatments, producing better seedling vigour and higher ultimate cotton yields.

“Since we’ve been using Cruiser, we haven’t had to use alternative controls in years when we’ve had high early insect pressure,” Mr Rogan said.

“Early pest control is vital to our final yields and Cruiser protects the seedlings when they’re most vulnerable. It’s a valuable part of our integrated pest management system, in which we’re aiming to preserve beneficial predatory insects as much as possible.

“Being a seed treatment, Cruiser is much easier and safer to use than in-furrow granular insecticides.”

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