Vince Wertman Director of Technical Services and Regional Sales Manager, ABM

Unlike molecules, biologicals are living organisms and can be killed or rendered ineffective if not properly handled from storage to application. As this sector of the industry continues to see increased investment and growth, there are some common pitfalls to avoid if you or others in your company are going to be handling seed-applied biological products.

Pitfall #1: Improper Storage.
Heat and sunlight are toxic to biological products. For best results in the field, products should be stored between 45-77 degrees Fahrenheit in a cool, dry environment. I always tell retailers to treat them like you would a jug of milk. You can’t leave it sitting on the dash of your truck and expect it not to spoil. You wouldn’t drink milk after it’s been in your truck for three days.

Pitfall #2: Chlorinated Water.
Unless it’s coming from a well, most supplied water is treated with chlorine, which means death to any biological product. This is an often-overlooked factor and can have a huge impact on product efficacy. Chlorine is put in water for one reason and that’s to sanitize it. Even if you do everything else properly, it will still be rendered ineffective. To get around this, I recommend using a water filtration system to remove chlorine. I advise against the use of additives to de-chlorinate the water, as it’s too easy to forget to add them, run out or buy the wrong product.

Pitfall #3: Exposed Product.
A common practice in with seed treatments is to open product, put it in the mix tank and if unused to leave it sit until the next batch. This doesn’t work for biologicals. Only open and use what you are going to apply within a four-hour window; think about it in terms of half-day increments. I strongly recommend that you read and follow all label guidelines.

Pitfall #4: Improper Coverage.
The product can’t work if it’s not on the seed. It’s important to calibrate your equipment and check it often. Note that while you don’t need full coverage — the product can grow and multiply with the plant — you do need consistency and the correct rate.

Pitfall #5: Tank Mixed and Atomized.
This is extremely important and one of the reasons we’ve seen inconsistent results from biological products. Tank mixing the product with other products greatly reduces shelflife and effectiveness of the product. Additionally, with a disc spinning at 1,500 to 3,000 rpm, atomizers are very hard on life. Trichoderma are very hardy and they do not survive well the atomization process; other biologicals are not hardy. Knowing this, most seed treating manufacturers have built in ports where biologicals products can bypass the atomizer.

Pitfall #6: Expired Product.
Just as milk does, biological products expire. On every package containing a biological, there should be an expiration date. Check the date before you use it. At ABM, we print the born on date, manufactured date and the expiration date so there’s no question as to the freshness of the product.

If you avoid these common pitfalls, I believe you’ll find that biological products work very well, maybe even better than actives as they grow and live with the plant.