Research and development of new seed-applied growth enhancer compounds is receiving considerable attention, and several of these seed-applied products are already on the market.
Questions abound by ag retailers as to which compounds they will entrust their company’' credibility and reputation.
Each manufacturer in this article describes the growth-enhancing activity of its compound differently. Each company promotes its own approach to "getting that plant off to a fast start." And of course, manufacturers don't want to disclose proprietary ingredients.
Several seed treatment compounds that are not traditional fungicides, insecticides or nematicides are discussed here. Each of the companies with these seed-treatment products indicate additional development work is in progress. Big and small companies are discovering the convenience of growth enhancers being delivered by the seed, and the positives of placing only small amounts of compounds into the environment.
A couple of the products mentioned in this article are brand new to the market and others have been marketed for the last few years. Each of them claim the common characteristic of improving plant growth, vigor and health as the crop plant germinates and begins root development. In general, they can be applied in conjunction with many other seed treatment products.

Becker Underwood — Vault HP
Charlie Hale, marketing lead, Becker Underwood, noted the stacking of products on the seed has become a point of emphasis. "We are talking about biostacks similar to stacked genes in the seed," he said. He pointed to Vault HP inoculant as a first example from his company. "We are including rhizobia, biological fungicide and growth enhancer on the seed so that they work together as a system."
The patented growth enhancer/performance booster included in Vault HP is not openly identified but was accessed from overseas research. Hale explained the growth enhancer stimulates rhizobial activity.  "This increases nodulation and nitrogen fixation, improves growth and helps raise yields," he said.

EMD Crop Bioscience — LCO Promoter Technology
"EMD's patented LCO (lipo-chitooligosaccharide) Promoter Technology is the growth promoter in our Optimize branded products," explained Chuck Broughton, director of marketing, EMD Crop Bioscience. In legumes, the LCO is the signal molecule that delivers the message the plant needs to start fixing nitrogen, he said.  
Optimize 400 is a soybean-seed-applied rhizobia-based inoculant that "enhances natural growth processes." Key benefits are enhanced root systems to improve the young plant's nutrient and water uptake and earlier and increased nodule development for improved nitrogen fixation, Broughton said. 
"What LCO does in helping get that soybean plant going is also helpful to non-legumes resulting in better roots and vigor in crops," he added. "LCO is being tested for utility on many different crops and applications."

Precision Laboratories — ProSurge and PhosForce
"ProSurge is a natural plant extract; it is a plant growth promoting material and proprietary plant extract. It is not a live biological material," said Terry Culp, vice president, seed and nutrient chemistries, Precision Laboratories.
The company classifies ProSurge as a catalytic seed treatment only for soybeans at present. "Pro-Surge helps the young plant better manage stress to keep the plant growing, maturing and reaching a reproductive stage earlier," he said.
ProSurge is marketed as a stand alone for seed retailer application and can be combined with other seed treatment products. ProSurge also is a component of the company's soybean rhizobia inoculant, Launcher Pro.
The second seed treatment product from Precision Laboratories is PhosForce for use with cereals seeds. It contains pseudomonas bacterium. "It is live bacteria that is not hardy enough for extended seed viability and must be applied same day as planting. PhosForce does not require sophisticated application equipment and can be applied as cereal seed is being transferred through an auger," explained Culp.
The pseudomonas naturally solubilizes phosphorus to make what had been unavailable phosphorus available for plant use. "PhosForce ensures the important element for new plant growth — phosphorus — is available within the rhizophere for plant root uptake," Culp said.

Novozymes — JumpStart
JumpStart is a naturally-occurring soil fungus applied to seed that makes nutrients — specifically phosphorus — more available to the plant. When the treated seed germinates, the fungus grows in the rhizophere along with the roots. "It is a symbiotic relationship. The fungus lives off the roots' excess sugars and carbohydrates and produces chelating compounds to make unavailable phosphorus available to the plant," explained Dorn Severtson, U.S. business lead, Novozymes. "We look for soils that test low in available phosphorus, which is much of the western Corn Belt," he said.
He noted that soils can be high in phosphorus yet only a small amount is available for crop uptake. "JumpStart solubilizes the phosphorus," he said. The explanation is that "as the fungus grows and multiplies, it produces chelating compounds that break the bonds that are holding phosphate in mineral forms that are not available to the plant."
JumpStart is a wetable powder of "dry, resting-state spores that are mixed with water" for application to seed. As an activated fungus, it is seed viable for 60 days with common corn seed treatments.

Stoller USA — Bio-Forge
Bio-Forge has been a product sold for several years and promoted as "proven to ensure optimum plant growth by maintaining appropriate hormone balance in combination with supporting nutrients." In some cases, Bio-Forge is described as a nutrient growth enhancer. It is not a biological product.
For the 2010 growing season, it is being promoted as a seed treatment product as well as being appropriate for application by other methods from planting to pre-harvest. The normal seed treatment rate is four ounces per 100 pounds of seed.
Helping the plant cope with stress is a main part of what Bio-Forge does, explained Wayne Smith, general manager, Stoller USA. He suggested the time of germination and early seedling growth can often be a high stress environment. "With any seed as it germinates, it is going to use its stored reserves to get the plant embryo growing. Bio-Forge helps protect the seed and embryo from those fluctuating stress conditions that occur," he said.

Wolf Trax — Protinus
An emerging market that Wolf Trax classifies as an important component for early plant health is seed-applied nutrition.  Protinus Seed Nutrition product from Wolf Trax is a patented formulation containing zinc, manganese and iron along with other inorganic proprietary ingredients to "optimize the pH in the micro-zone around the seed." Hundreds of trials show it improves nutrient availability and increases uptake of nutrients, including micronutrients, according to Jennifer Bailes, seed products and innovations, Wolf Trax. 
"Essentially the product has two modes of action. One being delivery of nutrients essential for early plant growth and the other creating the nutrient-friendly zone around the emerging radical or young seedling," said Bailes.
For optimum results, Protinus needs to be applied with equipment designed to apply a powder product following a liquid seed treatment, she said. "All the components are inorganic and do not deteriorate once put on the seed or in the box (company packaging), which means Protinus has an indefinite shelf life."