A paradigm shift is needed in the seed chain to become less dependent from chemical pesticides. The current system is based on production of pathogen-free seeds by combining fungicide applications in the seed production crops with seed processing technologies. This system can have detrimental effects on the seed microbiome. Reducing the microbiome by physical and chemical disinfection measures results in a less buffered ecosystem of seeds, seedlings and established crops.
To reach the Sustainable Development Goals, robust crops with a high intrinsic resistance against biotic stresses are needed and emissions of pesticides to the environment and residues have to be avoided and replaced by biological low-risk methods.
The project will deliver the proof of concept to the question whether an intact microbiome on/in the seed has a positive influence on plant health in the seeds and seedlings and which microbial components play a dominant role in this process. The knowledge is essential to enhance beneficial traits and microbial groups. For seed treatments very limited biocontrol products (BCA) are available so far. To be able to study the effects of BCA as seed treatments on the resilience of the plants a framework of assays for screening and testing new BCA on seeds will be developed. Individual assays will focus on efficacy against model diseases and pests, crucial ecological characteristics and relevant economic and regulatory issues. This will include an assay to analyse and a protocol to enhance survival and shelf life of applied BCA and the seed microbiome.
The project will support the seed supply chain to decide on appropriate routes during specific seed production and seed processing steps to implement the paradigm shift needed to ensure seed health and to establish robust crops in emission-free production chains. The project will also have strong impact on science. The provided knowledge on the role of the seed microbiome will be the scientific base to develop methods to steer microbiome and to develop new BCA. It will result in new research on microbially buffered seeds and crops. The impact on society will be that major steps towards delivery of robust seeds to agriculture and horticulture will be made to enable the sectors to produce food in a nature-inclusive, circular and economic way.