What does the seed industry
look like today from GTG vantage point?
As long-standing suppliers to the seed industry, we have been
witnessing a period of sustained and tremendous change over the
past decade. The major seed companies have continued to
consolidate to create their global presences, encompassing
substantial portfolios of crop species - although smaller
enterprises serving specialised niche markets still remain.
All these businesses, whatever their size, are being faced with
greater demands for flexibility imposed by much more dynamic
markets than before. New varieties and added-value products are
needed, against a backdrop of mounting cost pressures on growers
to produce competitively and increasing consumer requirements
for the highest quality at the lowest economic and environment
At the same time, the emergence of new market players in
developing agricultural nations is creating new needs and
opening new routes for the further globalisation of supply of
seed varieties, treatments and support technologies. This is
calling for considerable inputs and investments, in the face of
the current difficulties in worldwide agricultural economy.
However, where there are challenges, there are also
ways is seed technology developing?
Seed treatment technology is primarily to enhance and protect
seed germination and emergence, under a wide range of climatic
and agronomic conditions. For some crops, precision sowing is
also a key feature - which is the original reason seed coatings
such as pelleting and encrusting were developed over fifty years
The last two decades have brought considerable advances in
coating technologies to apply agrochemicals to seeds, and for
many crops these are effectively replacing the simple slurry
treatments that were traditionally used. This trend has been a
key factor underpinning the development of high quality
application standards for seed treatments. Precise pesticide
loading on a seed number or weight basis, and indeed on
individual seeds, has now become the norm in many markets.
The other major area of development has been in seed quality
upgrading and priming, in which GTG is very active. At one time
these physiological improvement techniques were largely confined
to low-volume high-value crops, because they were limited by
scale-up and cost considerations. However, as a result of
significant improvements in the process and developments in
scale-up engineering, these treatments are now finding
applications in some higher-volume field crops, such as sugar
What has been the role of
seed-applied crop protection treatments in the last ten to
The introduction of more effective and safe (and often
expensive) insecticide and fungicide treatments to protect seeds
and seedlings from pests and diseases has made a significant
difference to the way in which such molecules are applied to
crops. By increasingly using the seed as the major delivery
route, insecticide molecules such as tefluthrin, imidacloprid
and fipronil have brought about a value-added approach to seed
treatments in agronomic crops. More recently their entry into
horticultural and other crops has also made a significant
impact. Certainly within the European Union, the re-registration
review of major field-applied crop protection chemicals has
created a sustained momentum away from broadcast, granular and
spray applications, towards seed-applied crop protection.
Seed treatments also offer the grower greater convenience and
the security of knowing that his crop is protected from the
moment it is sown.
Finally, the increasing use of seed treatments away from blanket
field applications has considerably reduced the amounts of
synthetic active ingredients delivered on a land area basis,
which has brought an obviously positive environmental dimension
to the whole area of agrochemical crop protectants.
What are your thoughts on
the future of seed treatments?
The whole concept of modern seed treatments revolves around
precision and maintaining seed vigour. Active ingredients
provide the means to control the pest or disease target and the
role of the professional applicator is to ensure that the
potential is achieved by delivering treatments onto seed in a
precise manner and at the correct dosage. Current seed
application capabilities and know-how will shape the way in
which we work in the future, raising expectations of even closer
pesticide loading tolerances on crops and new opportunities to
apply other inputs on seeds.
Although loading materials onto the seed will have ultimate
practical limits – such as when they restrict germination -
there is now still further potential in using the seed as a
delivery vehicle as an alternative to conventional broadcast
crop treatment. I am thinking for instance about the successful
application of living beneficial micro-organisms, either by
themselves or in combination with traditional agrochemicals.
Organic crop production is another market segment showing
tremendous growth. We at GTG are already providing solutions
such as organically-approved coatings for seed. Because
conventional production systems using synthetised chemicals
cannot enter the organic crop production programmes, novel
approaches to seed-borne disease control are one promising new
area of large scale development for us, which I expect will
provide future benefits in the growth of this sector.
What are the specialist
areas required by a seed technology company?
The more traditional areas of seed production and processing,
variety and disease diagnostics are now being complemented and
changed by better understanding from seed physiology,
biochemistry and, increasingly, molecular biology.
I believe that at GTG we have these ingredients, allied to our
traditional core skills and knowledge, gained over many years of
experience in this industry.
What sort of new
expectations do you anticipate from growers and seed providers
in the near term?
It seems clear to me, from our experience, that greater pressure
from growers for just-in-time, fully specified products will
continue to place enormous pressures on seed companies in terms
of maintaining quality, product integrity and full audit
traceability, as well as the level of service to their own
customers. Currently, inventory management has to avoid large
quantities of carryover seed stock that may become obsolete,
which has increased the dependency on new season seed and often
on eleventh–hour seed treatment. Growers and farmers now expect
to be able to order their chosen variety and seed treatment, as
well as other farming inputs, very late, exacerbating the
challenge for all in the supply chain. More and more, the test
for the seed industry lies in being able to satisfy this demand
without compromising quality and service, against the background
of price competition and of a continued drive to lower cost
In addition, I believe that the entire industry will
increasingly be looking for the "leading edge" treatments and
benefits that will give them further opportunity to add value to
the entire chain of production. This will continue to increase
the need for customised approaches - by product innovation,
cost-effective technologies and distinctness of offers - to meet
customer needs. These are a tough set of demands, but I can see
it will be necessary to fulfil them all to compete successfully
and continue to grow in tomorrow’s agri-business environment.
Do you consider partnerships
at technological levels important?
I see that, by providing seed technology products and services
to the seed industry, we play an important role in this
fundamental element of the entire agricultural cycle. Both
currently and in the future there are challenging demands being
placed on our sector.
Even as a very financially stable business, GTG increasingly
looks to partnerships with its customers and suppliers, which
bring mutual benefit. These partnerships are important to GTG as
they provide an exchange of views and ideas in the development
of products and develop trust and confidence in long-standing
What are the advantages of
an independent seed technology service?
GTG’s independence means that we do not own, breed or sell seed,
nor, for that matter, do we have parentage to our suppliers. Our
activities, and our commitment to investment in R&D and
technology supported by our high level of financial stability,
are firmly centred on providing seed enhancement and coating
I believe this helps us to ‘think out of the box’ and bring
innovative concepts and products forward to help seed companies
focus on their essential business added values.
Being the caretaker of valuable seed, which is not your own,
while enhancing its value, is not a responsibility to be taken
lightly. This is pivotal in our philosophy and ethical stance as
a business, and we go to considerable lengths to ensure product
traceability systems, seed security and integrity, process
quality assurance and control procedures. All of this, of
course, is built into delivering ‘just in time’ competitive
services, tailored to the individual needs of our customers.
What would you like the
reader to know about GTG and its activities?
GTG, the Germain’s Technology Group, is the largest independent
custom-coating and enhancement company in the world. The Group
is currently made up of Germain’s in the UK, Ireland and Poland,
IST in Holland, Spain and Germany, and the businesses of Seed
Systems and ETS in the USA.
We have a dedicated staff of over 160 worldwide providing
specialist seed technology solutions for a wide portfolio of
agronomic, ornamental and horticultural seed species. These
services are provided from our ten production facilities, or
transferred via technology projects to a global customer base
from New Zealand to Finland and from China to California, and
Seed disinfection, priming and physiological treatments
Seed coating and pelleting services
Seed-applied crop protection treatment services
Engineered seed technology solutions, including coating
equipment, systems and coating materials.
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