Seed Coating: Science or Marketing Spin?
Seed coating is the practice of covering seeds with external materials to improve handling, protection, and, to a lesser extent, germination enhancement and plant establishment. With an annual value exceeding US$1 billion dollars, this technology is mostly the preserve of the private research sector, with few links to the scientific community. Here, we analyse the science and industry of seed coating and its contribution to seed establishment and plant performance. We posit that a closer collaboration between academia and industry is critical to realising the potential of seed coating both as a tool for enhancing plant establishment in the face of the challenges posed to agricultural systems and to propel the multibillion-dollar global push for ecological restoration of degraded ecosystems. Trends Artificial coating of seed is used to improve handling and for the delivery of protectants, symbiotic microorganisms, micronutrients, soil adjuvants, germination promoters, growth regulators, and colours. The private sector owns and controls most of the technology, with the bulk of the expertise and capacity residing in a few multinational companies that have limited research connection with academia. The research effort of industry is focussed on protective treatments (e.g., insecticides and pesticides), seed bulking, and embellishment for marketing purposes. The deployment of phytoactive promoters is rarely reported. Seed coatings are mostly applied to crop and vegetable varieties. Despite the global push for ecological restoration, the scientific community rarely considers seed technologies for use on native species and there is no recorded interest from the corporate sector in restoration.
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