4 years ago

ThePartnership no. 14

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Science Healthy seed,

Science Healthy seed, healthy cultivation Hybrid tomato seed production in a tunnel in China, where protective clothing is worn to prevent introduction and spread of plant pathogens in the tunnel Seed health is vitally important. Not only for growers, but also governments have strict phytosanitary rules and measures for seed importation. Why? Because pathogens on or in seeds can cause disease outbreaks, and countries obviously want to protect themselves against that. However, things are not as black and white as they first appear. 22 | The Partnership “Seed pathology has one very clear objective: to ensure a good, disease-free start of crop cultivation at our customers, growers and distributors,” explains Senior Researcher Seed Pathology Gerbert Hiddink. He and his team do research on all aspects of seed-borne pathogens. Their primary task is to develop fast and efficient detection methods for seedborne pathogens. Hiddink: “If we find an organism on the seed, we have to decide what the risk is and give recommendations on how to deal with it. It is up to us to ensure that all the seed leaving Enza Zaden does not result in an outbreak of disease at the grower. In some cases, the disease that we detect does not pose any risk, for example because the pathogen is dead. Pathogens There are many different pathogens: fungi, bacteria, viruses and viroids. These all have their own characteristics. Therefore, specific protocols have been developed for detection of these pathogens on or in the seed. Hiddink works closely together with other seed pathologists from other seed companies, test labs and governments. “Within the International Seed Health Initiative for Vegetable Crops (ISHI-Veg), we work together to develop, validate and publish protocols in a non-competitive way. Publication of developed seed health methods is very important for ISHI-Veg. This ensures harmonisation of testing methods and equal significance of test results between various labs globally. Of course it is not desirable if a test result from lab A differs from a test result on the same batch for the same pathogen in lab B. For sure for infected batches, but also for incorrectly rejected batches that don’t pose any risk of disease outbreak.” Infection A pathogen can infect the seed in various ways during seed production. For example, virus infection can take place early on in the growing process. The virus then has enough time to spread through the entire plant and into the seed. While for a late infection the pathogen might not be able to enter the seed at all. After an early infection there is a major risk that the pathogen will then enter deep into the seed and is protected against seed treatments. And these seeds are the most dangerous ones for pathogen transmission. The Partnership | 23

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