Seed Coating Technologies and Treatments for Onion: Challenges and Progress

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  • 1 Department of Horticultural Sciences, New York State Agricultural Experiment Station, Cornell University, Geneva, NY 14456
  • | 2 Department of Entomology, New York State Agricultural Experiment Station, Cornell University, Geneva, NY 14456

Conventional methods to control the onion maggot or onion fly, Delia antiqua (Meigen), have relied on in-furrow applications of the toxicant pesticide, chlorpyrifos. The objective of this research was to develop an onion (Allium cepa L.) seed treatment that utilizes a new chemistry compound that is environmentally safe. Cyromazine is an insect growth regulator with a mode of action different from traditional pesticides used to control onion maggot. Cyromazine has low mammalian toxicity and is relatively nontoxic to other insects, including beneficials. High seed loading rates (50 g·kg-1 active ingredient) are required for optimal efficacy, and conventional slurry methods are inadequate to apply these high loading rates. Film coating and pelleting were performed at Cornell Univ. to apply cyromazine and a registered fungicide (a formulation of thiram and carboxin) to onion seeds. Results of field studies performed over several years revealed that stand losses due to the onion maggot ranged from ≈20% to 60%. Cyromazine applied by either film coating or pelleting decreased the loss by onion maggot from 1% to 8%, and efficacy was comparable to an in-furrow application of chlorpyrifos. Cyromazine was registered as a seed treatment and is commercially used in the northeastern and midwestern United States, where onion maggot is a serious pest. Field emergence was not negatively affected by cyromazine coated onto the seeds when onion seeds are sown in organic (muck) soils. There is other evidence, however, that cyromazine seed treatments may cause phytotoxicity to germination and seedling growth. Testing seed quality in sand or on roll towels revealed a high percentage of abnormal seedlings. Retarded root growth was observed in seeds treated with cyromazine, resulting in an increase in abnormal seedling classifications. A finely ground sphagnum peatmoss applied over the seeds in a roll towel test ameliorated the abnormal root growth symptoms, and seedlings had robust growth. Collectively, film coating and pelleting were effective delivery systems for the application of plant protectants required at time of sowing. Modification of the standard germination test was needed to accurately assess onion seed quality. Moreover, this project was successful due to a team effort of a university seed scientist and entomologists working with onion growers and industry. Future registrations on small acreage, high-value horticultural crops are envisioned to require similar multi-partner approaches. Chemical name used: N-cyclopropyl-1,3,5-triazine-2,4,6-triamine (cyromazine).

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