Sustainability Starts with Newton

Rising input costs, loss of authorised plant protection products and weather extremes during the growing season are just some of the challenges putting increasing pressure on both growers and crops. And though these pressures are arguably out of the hands of growers, there are measures that can be taken to prime plants… and it all starts with the seed.

“Optimising plant health from day one, by targeting seeds rather than treating plants – is the number one thing growers can do to achieve a more sustainable start, both environmentally and economically, and protect genetic yield potential,” explains Stuart Sutherland, technical manager at Interagro.

“Recent seasons have proven just how unpredictable the weather can be which limits everything from sowing to spraying, so by treating the seed, growers are able to take action before they even set foot in the field.” Newton is a biostimulant seed treatment from Interagro comprised of unique stimulating peptides that stimulate plants to thrive, he adds.

“Managing the balance of growth promoting hormones versus growth inhibiting hormones, Newton not only triggers faster germination, it also signals enhanced root and shoot growth and the defence systems of plants. With proven abilities in the field, Newton not only ensures vigorous crop establishment, it also helps to build stronger, heathier, more resilient plants less dependent on synthetic inputs.”

Trialled and tested

Delving deeper into this proven performance, Newton is backed by a wealth of research, field trials data and grower endorsements, meaning you can be confident in its performance, notes Stuart.

Speedier starts
Starting with establishment, in 2019 work carried out at the University of Nottingham, replicated germination studies have shown Newton brings forward wheat seed germination by 2 days in comparison with naked (untreated) seed, and by 1.5 days when compared with Vibrance Duo (fludioxonil + sedaxane).

”Further germination studies at the university in January 2024, also confirmed benefits in pulses with Newton providing enhanced seed germination in both peas and beans at 6°C,” continues Stuart. For peas the time taken to achieve 90% germination was improved by around 1.5 days and for beans by two days.

Benefiting growers

The sooner seedlings germinate and emerge, the earlier crops begin to grow and develop which can have huge consequences – benefits we widely hear from Newton users. Here’s just a few examples below.

Higher emergence

With improvements in germination and speed of emergence, replicated trials have also shown improvements in the number of plants establishing per sqm. “This was initially seen in UK 2019 replicated field trials looking at the effects of Newton on Beret Gold (fludioxinil) treated wheat established at various seed rates and drill widths.

Newton increased the number of plants per sqm by 9% which was statistically significant,” says Stuart. In the same year, field work also looked at the effect of Newton on October (early drilled) and November (late) drilled wheat. There were benefits to plant establishment at both timings with increases of 7% and 12% respectively, though this was not statistically significant.

“Since that time replicated field trials typically show establishment benefits in both winter and spring crops taken to yield. For example, in this trial in Hungary in 2022 significant improvements in wheat establishment were recorded at three out of four sites, which also went on to show significant increases in root length and tillering at all sites,” continues Stuart. “With the dry springs of recent years, improved establishment, both above and below ground, has featured in many spring barley trials,” he notes.

Rigourous rooting increases

Of course, to continue that growth and development, a good root system is vital. “Increasing the efficiency of a plant is key to boosting productivity,” says Stuart. “Poor rooting has implications for plant health and ultimately how you will need to manage that plant during its life.”

This is where Newton has the potential to make a real difference too, with trials at Nottingham University demonstrating an average 43% increase in root mass in wheat and barley compared with naked seed – see graph (right). “That’s an average of four separate studies, each with four replicates, where Newton increased rooting significantly over naked seed,” explains Stuart. “What’s more, these extensive rooting benefits us and growers are seeing when Newton is applied to naked seed, and when co-applied with chemical seed dressing,” continues Stuart.

Subsequent studies at the university continue to demonstrate rooting benefits in other crops, including peas, beans, oats and maize. “In the 2023 bean research, significant increases of 66% were seen in root nodule numbers, demonstrating significant increases in nitrogen fixing bacteria,” says Stuart.

“With no seed treatments available in beans, this makes Newton a really exciting, cost-effective option for growers, both in terms of speed of emergence, and also rooting. This is also reflected in field trials with improved vigour and yield recorded in peas and beans.”

Higher nutrient uptake

“Longer, bigger roots mean better nutrient uptake potential,” notes Stuart. “Not only is this better for crop performance, but it also has economic advantages as crops are better able to scavenge the soil for the nutrients they need, rather than having to rely on costly inputs.” These are advantages growers are actively benefitng from on farm, with leaf tissue tests revealing increases in nutrient uptake, as shown right, for example.

Drought resilience benefits

Improved rooting also has huge implications when it comes to drought resilience with further studies at the university demonstrating what happens when water is withdrawn. The aim of the experiment was to investigate the effect of Newton on early root and shoot growth in spring barley in a drought situation. Nottingham’s Dr Steve Rossall concluded that Newton enhanced both root and shoot development in the spring barley and that these effects were seen in unstressed and drought-stressed plants. Statistically, this was represented as a 16% increase in shoot growth under no stress, and a 47% improvement under drought conditions. “The greatest effects were seen on root development, and this allowed better survival in field soil when water was withdrawn,” says Steve (as shown below).

Crop vigour increases

Further work by the university has also proven a benefit to early shoot growth where Newton was used. “Stimulating more shoot mass compared with naked seed, Newton has the ability to increase crop vigour, giving plants a competitive edge over challenging weeds and suboptimal weather conditions,” says Stuart. In trials this was proven by a 22% increase in shoot mass in both wheat and barley, as well as a 15% increase in shoot mass compared with Vibrance Duo on winter wheat. Similar results were also seen in beans (57% increase), maize (30% increase), peas (27% increase), spring oats (9% increase) and spring barley (6% increase), demonstrating the flexibility of Newton to perform on a wide range of crops,” adds Stuart. “Such benefits we often see in the field, though I would encourage growers to pull plants during establishment to really look for the rooting benefits which is a highly visible benefit of Newton.”

Soil benefits

And the benefits of Newton are not just limited to the crops… Enhanced structure and size of root systems makes for a bigger habitat and food source for microbial activity, explains Stuart. “Optimum soil health is key to enhancing plant health — 85-90% of plant nutrients are microbially mediated.

No matter how much you feed your plants, they won’t be able to access it properly unless your soils are in optimum health.” Nurturing soil biology is therefore key, he adds. “With this in mind, Newton’s ability to improve the structure and size of roots enables biology to colonise and feed. The result is higher root exudates, which provide crucial carbohydrates for microbes to function.”

The impact of the combination of these individual benefits is that farmers are likely to see yield improvement as a result. “We’ve run numerous yield trials over recent years, on a number of different crops and varieties, and they’ve consistently shown that the addition of Newton can increase yield by up to 10%,” explains Stuart.

Practical application

Aside from crop performance, there are many practical benefits of Newton too, adds Stuart. “I think there’s often the misconception with seed treatments that it’s fiddly, costly and time-consuming work. But something we continuously hear from growers is how practical the product is.

As it’s a non-microbial treatment it has a very long shelf life. In practical terms, this means farmers can leave it on the seed without the worry of it spoiling or decaying like a microbial treatment would do. “Farmers and seed treaters also regularly speak about how well it mixes with other seed treatments, again increasing that practicality.” Looking to the season ahead, with many growers just finding their feet again after what has been a brutal autumn for some, Newton could be an even more useful addition to the programme this year, believes Stuart.

“Whether it’s re-drilling lost winter acreage or increasing the area of spring crops because of the autumn, there is a lot of pressure on both farmers and crops this season to do well. While there’s no way of knowing what the rest of the year may hold, growers can plan to get crops off to the best possible start by using a proven seed treatment to prime crops against whatever is to come.”