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New seed coating tackles microplastics challenge

Recent years have seen a massive increase in the awareness of the potential environmental issues associated with plastics and micro-plastics (plastic particles of 5mm or less in size) which degrade and break down very slowly over time.


As a result, businesses in many sectors are rapidly looking to reduce or replace their use of plastic, and Food and Farming is no exception. Elsoms used their recent Open Days at Spalding to highlight how they are working with Dutch based seed technology company and key supplier – Incotec to introduce film seed coatings which do not contain microplastics.

Rob Pronk, Global Marketing Manager for Incotec explains, “Polymers are used to apply products, such as plant protection products, onto seed, and it is important that the polymers are both safe for the seed, and that they retain active ingredients on the seed without leading to any dust going into the surrounding environment. Historically these film coats were made up with certain polymers with a strong binding capacity, and these polymers are now considered to be microplastics – it’s basically a glue but it breaks down into small particles. We’ve introduced microplastic-free alternatives for several crops, which do not contain these polymers, yet still retain the required qualities such providing a variety of colours, retaining PPPs on the seed, maintaining flowability and seed safety, and also being dust free: all the qualities you’d expect from high quality seed.

European legislation prohibiting the use of these specific microplastic polymers for seed coatings is expected to come into effect in five years’ time, but Incotec has decided to adapt their portfolio as quickly as possible, and starting in Europe, will introduce the new coatings around the world. Rob adds that the new products have been thoroughly tested to ensure parameters such as seed safety, germination, and dust creation are unchanged.

Having first introduced the new microplastic-free polymers on major crops such as sunflower, maize and soybean, they are now being rolled out to vegetable crops including carrots and parsnips, and Elsoms’ Account Manager, Sylwia Taylor explains that trials of the new coatings are underway with selected growers in the UK.

Although the anticipated legislation to ban micro-plastics is a European initiative, Sylwia expects the UK and other markets to adopt similar rules with a similar timescale. “The EU debate on the legislation is ongoing now, and we are also working with Incotec to develop alternatives to other products, such as PPPs, which may be affected by such legislation, such as products to help the plant cope with abiotic stress,” she explained. “As a seed company we want to be proactive when it comes to issues such as microplastics and we want to implement best practices globally. For example, we are also in the process of introducing bio-compostable, biodegradable packaging for our seed.