Abiotic Stress Management: More Than Just Fairy Dust

- Kris Pauna

In North America, abiotic stress management is not a subject that many people talk about, but abiotic stresses can have a significant impact on crop production. Abiotic stresses are simply the environmental and non-living factors that can have a negative impact on plants. Examples of abiotic stresses include high winds, drought, floods and extreme temperatures.

When the topic of abiotic stress management is discussed, people often think of plant growth regulators, plant hormones, or so-called “snake oils” or “fairy dusts”. There are many products that claim to help protect seeds and make young plants stronger to better manage in-season stresses, but not all of these claims have the science behind them. So, when people hear “abiotic stress management”, they often think about these unproven products.

There are quality seed treatment products out there that have solid science behind them, which shows they protect the seed and young seedlings from diseases and insects. This improves plant stand and early plant development, helping plants better manage abiotic stresses throughout the season — you really only get one chance at establishing a good stand and healthy start when you plant the seed.

An example of these seed treatments is the fungicide sedaxane (branded as Vibrance). It has been shown to boost a crop’s rooting power by delivering enhanced disease protection leading to stronger root systems and improved crop performance in more than 18 different crops.

A strong root system allows plants to increase their water and nutrient uptake, which results in plants that are hardier and better able to withstand abiotic stresses. Additionally, larger roots enable plants to mine water during dry periods where stunted plants may struggle. In fact, a recent University of Nottingham study looked at how sedaxane can help plants with their photosynthetic response and get through periods of drought during the growing season.

When we talk about abiotic stress management and rooting power, it’s that combination between broad-spectrum disease protection and healthier plants and root systems that ensures the plant will be better positioned to tolerate those stresses throughout the growing season, leading to higher, more consistent yields.

The concept of abiotic stress management is backed by sound science and research continues to explore new chemistries that go beyond targeting a disease or insect. Scientists are exploring what new chemistries can bring to the plant to help it develop in a way to better tolerate abiotic stresses throughout the entire season.