An Organic Solution: High Mowing’s Steam Treatment Research
Seed borne diseases present a serious threat to growers. The organic industry has limited tools for addressing these seed borne pathogens. In an innovative effort to find an organic solution to the problems caused by seed borne disease, High Mowing’s owner and founder, Tom Stearns, is spearheading research on steam treatment of seeds.
The challenge of disease control is to kill the disease without also killing the seed. A pathogen residing on the exterior of a seed can be destroyed without affecting the seed within. In conventional seed production, chemicals are used to complete the task. In organics, hot water treatment is the accepted method. But the challenge is amplified when a disease is inside a seed. Some modern organic control methods like hot water treatment address this challenge, but hot water treatment can be imprecise and takes a long time. Some seed types also react to water by forming a gelatinous casing, rendering the seeds impractical for commercial use after treatment.
Steam treatment focuses on pinpointing the ideal specifications for a particular seed type affected by a particular disease. Because all seeds are not the same and all disease are not the same, the slight differences between individual seeds and individual pathogens can mean the difference between whether a treatment kills the disease, or kills the seed. Using precise degrees of heat, humidity, and exposure time, we treat seeds with steam, and dry them with dehumidifiers. The seeds never come in contact with water; treatment takes a fraction of the time it would to treat with hot water; and with modern equipment, the heat and humidity are controlled with ultimate precision to eliminate any infection without affecting the inner seed. Treated seeds then undergo our standard quality assurance tests to evaluate vigor, germination and disease presence.
Successes in our post-treatment quality assurance tests encouraged us to start actively working with research institutions, commercial farmers, and other seed companies to treat diseased seed. Seeds steam treated in our facility are now being used across the country for research and commercial production. Results from these steam treated seeds have been positive, demonstrating disease-free crops with no indications of compromised vigor or germination rates and, in some cases, enhanced performance of both.
As High Mowing continues pursuing innovations on the frontline of organic agriculture, we constantly strive to serve the growers who use our seeds. Steam treatment may offer an important tool to organic seed producers, in turn helping to maximize the success of organic farmers as we continue to work towards our shared goal of building better organic systems.
Interested in steam treatment for your seeds? Call us to find out more. 866-735-4454.