JUNE 2018 SEEDWORLD.COM / 41 To some, this might seem like an awfully fast launch. How many trials were done? In what locations? Can it be replicated? Are these experimental conditions or growing conditions? Naturally, these questions come to mind. Bunderson says that high throughput experimentation has allowed them to advance this technology much faster than traditional methods. “I like to think we are dabbling in a big data approach, which gives us more statistical power,” he says. Still Learning When asked what the limitations are, Bell says: “This is a new tool and another tool in the toolbox. It has its strengths and weaknesses, of which we continue to explore. There will likely be some chemistries it doesn’t do well with.” As an example, with the fertilizer version, he says the nano- particles aren’t able to deliver enough nitrogen to the plant, but that is something that’s easy to get into the plant. “Things that are extremely difficult to get into the plant can be delivered with high efficiency using nanotechnology, giving some amazing results,” Bell says. Through research agreements, NanoShield is being tested by some seed companies, but those companies, per agreement, can’t be disclosed at this time. While Bell and his team are excited about the potential for NanoShield as it comes into the market, he says the future is even brighter as they continue to explore new applications for the use of nanotechnology, seed coatings and plant growth. “It’s not unlike what is being done with biostimulants, biologi- cals and microbials,” Bunderson says. “It’s really exciting — when you think about a crop out there in the field, farmers are looking to deliver nutrition, biostimulants and fungicides.” For example, micronutrients are really good to work with. You have a particle that’s not mobile in the plant. You can track it from the root to the shoot, so you know the proper time win- dows for release. We could be looking at windows of seven days, 21 days and 42 days. The ratios of plant hormones are expressed differently at different stages. With the time release capabilities, we are looking into a number of possibilities: hormones with micronutrients released in a cascade of phases? Who knows, maybe some day we will be able to say 60-day corn instead of 90-day corn, Bell says. It’s possible we could create shorter crop cycles. There are many facets to this. One big factor is disease con- trol and providing early protection to the seedling. Then there’s a gap between what the seed coat covers and what your fungicide spray will cover. We want to extend that period of coverage to protect plants from disease and minimize or maybe even close the gap. “Control is everything,” Bunderson says. Control of when things receive nutrition. Fungicide is just one example of some of the things we are looking into. Farmers can spray later and for some crops, it may even eliminate a pass through the field. “I fundamentally believe that with what’s out there in biotech- nology and the science space, we have the tools to get farmers back to profitability,” Bell says. “Given the investment in this area, it could be a matter of months, year and decade, and that’s why I’m really excited about what’s coming down the pike.” SW