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Rhizobia Bacteria: How seed coating technology is transforming agriculture and yields.

March 21, 2023

Seed coating technology—not to be confused with pelleted seed, treated seed, or encrusted seeds—has been around for a minute in the agricultural world. The most notable thing about it: it enhances the approaches and purposes of these other germination stage applications in ever-evolving and innovative ways. 

One of the most up-to-date ways seed coatings are doing this currently is by utilizing the power of soil microbes for production. It may also have a competitive edge with the medley of other production-, yield-, and profit-boosting agricultural approaches and applications out here—and at a rate progressive enough that it may soon become a standard on the agricultural mantelpiece for most farmers: whether they grow wheat, alfalfa, or other modern row crops or grains. 

This is what seed coating technology, utilizing the power of nature, could attain. Imagine being able to both cut down and save money on your typical ag inputs… just by investing more money up front for the ultimate protection of your crop’s germination stage. And, in comparison, you’re only paying a marginal amount extra per seed—but for an application strategy that provides an even higher probability for success and healthy crops, right at the very start. 

Seed coatings and the power of Rhizobia bacteria

Seed germination is the most vulnerable stage for crop growth. It’s also the growth phase holding the greatest potential for yield success: which is where Rhizobia bacteria come in. 

Rhizobia (bacteria of the Rhizobia genus—singular: “Rhizobium”) are a category of soil bacteria instrumental to agricultural production, particularly nitrogen fixation, the natural means by which plants get this vital nutrient, and which form a relationship not only with legume cover crops but also main season legume crops like alfalfa, soy, etc.  

In many modern soils, however, these bacteria occur at low levels. This is the cause for farmers to use inoculants and other products (along with legume cover crops) to ensure these bacteria remain constant in their soils at the adequate levels needed for natural nitrogen to be present. 

Seed coating technology utilizes Rhizobia bacteria (contained and activated within the coating) for the germination stage in a way that helps cut down on both the labor and costs growers put into nitrogen fixation and inoculants. The way it works: coatings (such as Apex™) contain several strains of Rhizobia that establish quickly in the soil upon contact and planting. With legume main season crops—or cover crops—they beneficially infect seedling root nodules straightaway, catalyzing the nitrogen fixation process. (For non-legume crops, they do not form this relationship, but provide much needed Rhizobia bacteria in the soil for legume crops in the future). 

Timing of nitrogen fixation and Rhizobia can create extra labor—plus, the perfect timing window can sometimes be missed—with seedlings at their earliest stage during germination. Not so with seed coating technology: when Rhizobia is introduced immediately at the seedling stage with no need for timing added inoculants, your crops are geared for success and getting the optimal nitrogen they need, right at the outset, thanks to these provided coatings.  

Extra nutrients to get you over the finish line 

Here’s the rub: like your crops, Rhizobia bacteria are also living things that require the right sustenance and conditions to survive. This hinges on your seedlings producing adequate nodules for the Rhizobia to colonize and call home—and this in turn hinges on adequate soil nutrition. 

Thankfully, this is another aspect that seed coating technology can handle: encapsulating the perfect cocktail of nutrients for both crops and Rhizobia to thrive. Seed coating technology like Apex™ includes the right plant minerals and materials built right in, and especially nutrients like calcium which are pivotal for strong, healthy nodule and root growth at every seed stage. 

In this way, seed coating technology saves farmers another potential task, cost, and timing window to hit just right: getting nutrients down around their germinating seedlings at just the right time; not only for their own longevity and boosting yields, but also for the success of bacterial Rhizobia and nitrogen fixation further down the line. 

Hygroscopic seed coatings: bringing moisture to where it’s needed 

Bringing the conveniences of needed Rhizobia and nutrients for optimal seedling success doesn’t do justice without a third vital factor: moisture.  

That’s right: seed coatings (like Apex™) can utilize what is called “hygroscopic technology.” This draws and concentrates moisture closer to the seed as it is planted, thereby boosting both its germination and survivability rates together. 

Seed coating technology is pulling agriculture into a newer and brighter future. With the means for helping seedlings germinate quicker and with more uniformity—while pulling the required nutrients and moisture closer to root systems to help guarantee their success—farmers will soon consider this technology a must-have standard for improving yields, all while cutting down on costs and inputs in the coming seasons, and all while modern agriculture continues to evolve and improve upon itself while improving both the lives and livelihoods of farmers in the process. 

seeds with seed coatings being planted by hand in soil

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