Contact Eli Rogosa Kaufman: 207 872 9093

for research cooperation to test treatments.

1. Preventing Disease in the Field

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Organic seed disease prevention starts with health-promoting cultural practices in ecologically managed farms that prevent disease and pests in the first place, that include:

1.1 Crop rotation- creating disease-suppressive soil/compost, habitats for benefical pest predators
1.2 Appropriate Planting Dates, Soil Temperature and Moisture
1.3 Selecting Disease-Resistant Varieties
1.4 Cleaning and Processing Methods that Control Disease

2. Seed Surface Treatments
Surface seed treatments reduce disease-causing fungi and bacteria found on the seed. Biological seed treatments control seed pests by parasitizing the pest organisms, competing for food on the root system, or producing toxic compounds that inhibit pathogen growth. Control of surface pathogens include beneficial microbes in compost teas, herbal sprays, washes or oils, hot water, heat, and disinfectants.

2.1 Compost and Vermi-Compost Teas
2.2 Biodynamic Treatments
2.3 Herbal Treatments
2.4 Hot Water Bath
2.5 Disinfectants
f. Commercial Products
2.6 Indigenous Methods
2.7 Research and Resources

3. Treatments to Prevent Soil-Borne Disease
This approach surrounds the germinating seed with protection from the disease-causing fungi, soil-borne pathogens that cause damping-off, and other soil-borne diseases. Fungal pathogens in the soil can rot the seed before it emerges from the soil or kill plants as they emerge. Treatments encourage healthy root systems.

3.1 Drench Transplant with Compost Tea - inoculant to enhance beneficial soil microflora

4. Research and Resources

2. Seed Surface Treatments

a. Compost Tea and Vermi-Wash
Disease-suppressive compost has complex microbial communities that compete with and control pathogens. It is typically used to coat the leaf surface with beneficial microbes or as a soil drench. To produce suppressive compost, we suggest to pre-mix the raw ingredients, manage at lower temperatures on fertile soil, minimize turning and inoculate with earthworms to increase beneficial microbes. Vermicompost (earthworm castings) has been found to have significant disease-suppression. Research is needed to investigate use of compost teas for control of seed-surface pathogens.

Use of Specifically-prepared Compost Tea for Soil and Foliar Biocontrol
 Late blight of potato, tomato, Phytopthora infestans  Horse compost extract
Weltzein (1990)
 Gray mold on beans, strawberries
Botrytis cinerea
 Cattle compost extract
Weltzein (1990)
 Fusarium wilt
Fusarium oxysporum
 Bark-compost extract
Kai, et al (1990)
Downy & Powdery mildew-grapes
Plasmopara viticola, Uncinula necator
 Animal manure-straw compost extract
Weltzein (1989)
 Powdery mildew on cucumbers
Sphaerotheca fuliginea
 Animal manure-straw compost extract
Weltzein (1989)
 Gray mold on tomato, pepper  Cattle & chicken manure compost extract, Grape marc compost extract
Elad, Shtienberg (1994)
 Apple scab
Venturia conidia
Spent mushroom compost extract
Cronin, Andrews (1996)


Visit: for more compost tea resources.


B. Biodynamic
Seed Soaks and Sprays

Biodynamic preparations are used to enhance the biological activity of the soil. The preparations consist of mineral, plant, or animal manure extracts, usually fermented and applied in small proportions to compost, manures, the soil, or directly onto plants, after dilution and stirring procedures called dynamizations.

They are numbered 500 to 508. BD#500 is made from cow manure fermented in a bovine horn and buried for six months through autumn and winter. It is used as a soil spray to stimulate root growth and the production of humus. BD#501 is the horn silica preparation made from powdered quartz packed into a cow horn and buried in the soil through spring and summer for six months. It is used as a plant spray for the stimulation and regulation of growth. BD#502 - 507 are compost inoculates and are inserted into the compost piles to increase microbial activity, enhancing the decomposition process. They are made from the fermented herbs yarrow(Achillea millefolium), chamomile(Anthemis nobilis), stinging nettle(Urtica dioica), oak bark(Quercus alba), dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), and valerian (Valariana officinalis), respectively. Each preparation stimulates processes essential for plant growth and are used to strengthen the life forces on the farm.

The preparations are used a seed soak to encourage germination and growth of seedlings and for anti-fungal control. The solutions are lightly sprayed on seeds and then quick dried on a screen.

BD Seed Baths
 Material  Seed  Instructions
 Horn Manure  Spinach  Stir prep for 1 hour
 Barrel Compost  Root crops  1 part BC+ 4 parts rainwater +5 parts milk, leave 24 hours, stir 5 minutes before use
 Valerian  Beet, onion, tomato, potato  1 tablespoon/10 liters, stir 15 minutes
 Yarrow  Grain, grasses  1 portion in 3 liters rain water, stir vigorously 5 minutes, leave 24 hours, stir before use
 Chamomile  Legume radish, brassica  Same as for yarrow
 Oak Bark  Oats, lettuce, potato, dahlia  Same as for yarrow
 Nettle  Barley  Same as for yarrow


Recommended by Gunther Hauk:
BD 501, horn silica prep: Stir for I hour. Spray on seed crop a fine mist early in the morning on a fruit day. The week before harvest, stir and spray finely in the afternoon. Refer to BD Planting Calendar.

BD 500 - applied to soil before the sowing day. The vegetable seeds are treated with BD 500 for about 12 an hour and dried in the shade for about 1 hour. The seeds are then sown in the beds. Healthy plants are obtained and the germination of seeds is very good. Seeds treated with this method include Cowpea, Okra, Radish, Beans.

Reference- Seed Soaks with the Biodynamic Preparations , H. Courtney, Spring 1994/Issue No. 7

c. Herbal Treatments

Equisitum, common name: Field Horsetail, is prepared as a tea to suppress fungal growth of mildew and other fungi, on grapevine, vegetables and trees. The useful variety, 'arvense' has a slightly discolored or green collar. The less potent varieties have a collar formed of small black pointed leaves around the joints. The plant propagates by spores that spread out from the brown leafless stems in spring. The plant is difficult to start but reproduces well once established.

Prepare by boiling plants for a 20 minutes to a half an hour. Spray on seeds.
( p 93 Weeds and What They Tell. Ehrenfried Pfeiffer, BD Assoc.)


Stinging Nettle (Urtica Dioica) is reputed to increase disease resistance in neighboring plants, possibly through a biochemical exudate and stimulates humus formation. Used as a nutrient rich spring tonic and used as a BD prep by fermentation. E. Pfeiffer sites an experiment showing that stinging nettle planted between rows of tomatoes decreased rotting and enhanced production of oils in pepperment plants. It is observed that nettles stimulate soil life decomposers to produce mature humus. Fermented nettles are added to BD compost.
'Garlic extract significantly reduced Fusarium effects and did not have any effect on germination or vigour.'
'Seeds can be treated with garlic juice.'

'Considerable research activity has occurred in the Asian-Pacific region on the potential for plant extracts to control seed-borne fungi. The oils of cassia and clove inhibited growth of established seed borne infections of Aspergillus flavus, Curvularia pallescens
and Chaetomium indicum in maize (Chatterjee 1990). Aqueous extracts of Strychnos nux-vomica, garlic bulbs, ginger rhizomes, basil leaves, and fruits of Azadirachta indiica were used to control Alternaria padwickii in rice seeds (Shetty et al 1989), while extracts from peppermint and garlic reduced rice seed infection by Cochliobolus miyabeanus (Alice and Rao 1986). Garlic bulb extract inhibited the spore germination and mycelial growth of seed-borne fungal pathogens of jute, including Macrrophomina phaseolina, Botryodiplodia theobromaeand Colletotrichum corchori (Ahmed and Sultana 1984). Homeopathicdrugs, Filixmasand Blatta orientalis, completely suppressed the population of
Fusariumoxysporumin the seed mycoflora of wheat (Raka et al. 1989). Aspergillus ruber infection and weevil oviposition of Zabrotes subfaciatus were reduced by mineral oil and soybean oil treatment of dry beans stored in Ecuaddor (Hall and Harman 1991). Soybean oil, applied at a rate used to suppress grain dust, reduced storage fungi growth in maize and soybeans during 12 months in field storage bins in Iowa (McGee et al 1989, White and Toman 1994).'


d. Hot Water Seed Treatment

kills most disease causing organisms on or within seed. Suggested for eggplant, pepper, tomato, cucumber, carrot, spinach, lettuce, celery, cabbage, turnip, radish, and other crucifers
- Use carefully: Improper treatment can cause seed injury
- Seed of cucurbits can be severely damaged by hot-water treatment

Pre-warm loose seed in woven cotton bag (about _ full) for 10 minutes at 100 F water. Place pre-warmed seed in water bath that will hold the recommended temperature.
Length of treatment must be EXACT
After treatment, dip bags in cold water to stop heating action, spread seeds to dry
Recommends applying protective seed tx fungicide to hot-water treated seed
*** old seed can be severely damaged by this treatment. A small sample of any seed lot over 1 year old should be treated and tested for germination to determine amount of injury that may occur
Thiram is most frequently suggested seed-protectant fungicide (do not use treated seed for food or feed)

Seed Temp (F) Minutes
Brussels sprouts, cabbage, eggplant, spinach and tomato 122 25
Broccoli, cauliflower, cucumber, carrot, collard, kale, kohlrabi, rutabaga, turnip 122 20
Mustard, cress, and radish 122 15
Pepper 125 30
Lettuce, celery and celeriac 118 30

From Ohio State University's 2002 Ohio Vegetable Production Guide, Bulletin 672-02, Producing Transplants

Hot Water Treatment of Vegetable Seeds

The following is an excerpt from Sally A. Miller's "Disease Management for Conventional and Organic Tomato Growers", from the 2002 New York State Vegetable Conference and Berry Growers Meeting Proceedings. Pg.193 ­ 194.

"Cultural management. This is a broad category of management tactics that are numerous common-sense approaches that affect not only disease incidence and severity, but also plant growth and management of other pests, in both the greenhouse and field. The first consideration is to always use clean seeds, as free of pathogens as possible. For tomatoes, seeds should be tested for the bacterial pathogens causing bacterial canker, bacterial spot and bacterial speck. Certain fungi may also be seed borne, but testing is not routinely carried out for these pathogens. We recommend hot water treatment for all seed lots testing positive for a bacterial pathogen, and all untested seed lots. Hot water treatment is preferred because the bacterial canker pathogen survives inside the seed coat and is not completely eliminated by surface disinfestations using Clorox, acid, or other treatments. It is also permitted for organic tomato production. Tomato seeds should be placed in a loosely woven cotton (e.g. cheesecloth) bag, not more than half-full, and pre-warmed for 10 minutes in 100 degree Fahrenheit water. The bag should then be moved to a 122 degree Fahrenheit water bath for 25 minutes exactly. Old or poor quality seed may be damaged by this treatment. For more complete instructions, see Ohio State University Extension Bulletin 672 "Ohio Vegetable Crop Production Guide (seed treatments), also available online"
Preventing Bacterial Diseases of Vegetables with Hot-Water Seed Treatment
Hot Water Treatment
Hot water treatments control many seed-borne diseases by using temperatures hot enough to kill the organism but not quite hot enough to kill the seed. Treatment for the fungal disease blackleg and the bacterial disease black rot of crucifers is a classic example of hot water treatment. It must be carefully and accurately done. Therefore, growers should ensure that heat treatment was performed by the seed company, avoiding performing hot water treatments themselves. A few degrees cooler or hotter than recommended may not control the disease or may kill the seed. The objective is to use as high a temperature and as long a duration as possible without seriously impacting germination. Hot water treatment can be damaging or not practical for seeds of peas, beans, cucumbers, lettuce, sweet corn, beets and some other crops. Some hybrid varieties of cauliflower may be damaged by the recommended treatment. Seeds that can be treated by hot water are listed in the table.

Crop Temperature Time
Brussel sprouts, cabbage, eggplant
tomato & spinach 122F 25 minutes
Broccoli, cauliflower, Chinese
cabbage, cucumber, carrot, collards
kale, kohlrabi and turnips 122F 20 minutes
Mustard, cress & radish 122F 15 minutes
Peppers 125F 30 minutes
Lettuce & celery 118F 30 minutes

Methodology For General Reference
Hot water treatment of fresh seed at the temperatures recommended should not reduce germination. However, check carefully with suppliers to ensure that the seed has not already been treated by the seed company. Seed should not be treated twice. Also, treating old, out-of-date seed will reduce germination.

These steps must be followed for accurate treatment:

* Place a few grams of seed in a small porous bag, such as cheesecloth. The amount of seed should be just sufficient to allow thorough and immediate wetting. The bag may need to be weighted down.
* Fill a container with water and increase the temperature. Use an accurate thermometer to check the temperature and immerse the thermometer to half way down the container. It is absolutely critical that time and temperature be monitored precisely as high temperatures can kill seeds while low temperatures do not kill the pathogen.
* When the water reaches the correct temperature, wet the bag and seed with warm water and suspend them in the container of water.
* Stir the water and the bag of seed regularly during treatment to ensure that all the seed is heated evenly.
* After the time/temperatures have been satisfied, immediately place the seeds (bag & all) into cold water to quickly stop the heating.
* Once seeds have cooled, spread them thinly on a paper towel to allow drying.
* Always use a protective seed treatment fungicide with hot-water-treated seeds after they dry, for these seeds have been weakened and are more susceptible to soil-borne pathogens.
* Plant the seed as soon as it is thoroughly dry. Do not store treated seed.

Hot Water Treatment
Spores or bacteria that are attached to seeds can be killed by soaking the seeds in hot water. Use water of exactly 50°Celcius and soak the seeds for 30 minutes.


e. Disinfectants

Clorox Treatment: removes bacterial pathogens on seed surface. Recommended for peppers, tomatoes, cucurbits and other vegetavles if the seed has not been treated by another method

To use for organic seed, this is NOT a treatment, but seed cleaning. Rinse with water after the washing with bleach. Ask your certifier.

Instructions: Agitate seeds in solution of 1 part Clorox in 4 parts water with one teaspoon surfactant for 1 minute. Use 1 gallon disinfectant solution per pound of seed (prepare a new solution with each batch) Rinse seed thoroughly in running tab water for 5 minutes, then spread and dry. Dust seeds with Thiram (75 WP 1 teaspoon/lb seed). Do treatment close to planting time.

Seed Soaked in Bleach or Acid
Soaking seed in a bleach or acid solution can be very helpful in control of certain bacterial pathogens that may be carried on the seed coat, including bacterial speck, canker, and spot or tomato or pepper. This is a treatment that growers can and should implement themselves. The time and concentration needed varies by crop.

Clorox Seed Treatment for Tomato and Pepper
Seed may be treated by washing 40 mins. w/continuous agitation in 1 part Clorox liquid bleach (5.25% sodium hypochlorite) to 4 parts water (i.e. 1 pint Clorox plus 4 pints water). Rinse seed in clean water immediately after removal from the Clorox solution and promptly dry. Germination may be compromised if washing time exceeds 40 mins.


b. Commercial Products
Kodiak concentrate contains Bacillus subtilis bacteria which colonize the developing root system, suppressing disease organisms such as Fusarium, Rhizoctonia, Alternaria and Aspergillus that attack root systems. When used with a chemical seed treatment, the combination of chemicals and Kodiak provides protection to the root for a much longer time than with chemicals alone. As the root system develops, the bacteria grow with the roots extending the protection throughout the growing season. As a result of this biological protection, a vigorous root system is established by the plant, which often results in more uniform stands and greater yields. Registered for seed and pod vegtables, soybeans, wheat and barley, and corn plus all other agricultural seeds.

Biological Seed Treatment For Corn and Soybeans
Bio-Seed-Gard is an OMRI-approved blend of micro-organisms for use as a seed treatment for Corn, Soybeans, Peas, Legumes, and other crops. AgriEnergy Resources, the Co. that developed the product, has done greenhouse and field trials showing improved: seeding vigor, stand establishment, root growth, plant growth, and yield. Dry blend of Trichoderma & Mycorrhizal species.
CB-QGG is a liquid biological seed treatment and root growth promoter formulated with beneficial microbes, macro and micro nutrients, amino acids, organic acids, root growth stimulants, enzymes, proteins, vitamins and minerals. CB-QGG makes less available forms of soil phosphate available to plants, promotes nitrogen fixation, root development and quick emergence, stimulates cell division and increases stress tolerance. In addition, it produces substances which increase the vigor of treated plants helping them resist damage by pathogenic fungi and damping off. This results in a more consistent plant stand and increased yields. CB-QGG promotes early root growth and larger roots. Larger roots provide better access to moisture and nutrients which translates into improved health throughout the life cycle of the crop.

When used as directed, the beneficial fungi in CB-QGG penetrate and colonize the plant roots and send out filaments into the surrounding soil. These filaments form a bridge that connects the plant roots with large areas of soil (up to 200 times larger than the root zone) and act as a "pipeline" to funnel nutrients to the plant. In return, the plant discharges compounds, through its roots, to stimulate fungal growth. The efficacy of the fungi is also enhanced by soil microbes such as bacillus sp. These bacteria, many of which are aerobic, affect root colonization and function by producing vitamins, hormones, and other compounds that promote fungal growth.

Biological Seed Treatment
Fungal spores or bacteria can infect seeds while they are still developing on the plant or after the harvest. These pathogens cause diseases in the next crop (seed-borne diseases) . Antagonistic fungi or bacteria can be used to protect seeds. Examples of these biological agents are Trichoderma sp. (antagonist fungus) and Bacillus subtilis (a bacterium). Biological seed treatments multiply in the soil, protecting root systems against soil-borne pathogens (ie: damping-off) after germination.

Trace Element SeedTreatment 'Application of trace elements to the seed provides nutrients to the seed during the critical period of plant establishment. The early alleviation of nutrient deficiency enhances crop yield and quality.'



Seed Treatment 1 : The cow urine treatment with 1:10 concentration was found very suitable to treat seeds of finger millet for good germination and seedling vigor. So farmers were advised accordingly to treat the finger millet with cow urine at 1:10 dilution.

Seed Treatment 2 : Finger millet seeds are soaked with water for 18 hours (1 kg seed/600 ml water). The water is drained and seeds are dried under shade just 10 - 15 min before sowing. It helps in good germination and through this treatment it resists stress and overcomes drought condition very effectively.

Seed Treatment 3 : Salt Water Treatment (Place an egg in water until it sinks to the bottom and rests horizontally. The horizontal egg indicates that the egg is not rot and that it could be further used for purpose of testing the density of salt concentration in water). Then remove the egg add salt to water and stir continuously until it dissolves. Immerse the egg once again into this concentration. This process of immersing the egg to test the density of salinity concentration continues. At a certain stage of salt application into water, only a quarter of the egg is found to be visible on the surface. This is the standard saline concentration used for seed treatment. Seeds are soaked in this preparation for a period of 30 minutes and then removed, washed twice and thoroughly dried until the moisture is absorbed. Salt-water treatment is a useful technique in separating healthy seeds from chaffy ones.

This treatment is found to be very effective in treating paddy seeds.

1. It separates the healthy seeds from chaffy seeds
2. Protects from storage fungus
3. Activates embryo



Development of Biological Seed Treatments
A European Commission funded project involving Aberdeen University (Dr Chris Mullins), TCOA (Prof. Carlo Leifert), a German seed company and Universities in Germany and Greece is close to completion. Over the last 3 years processing methods, which allow biological control agents and plant extracts to be applied as a seed coating. This novel technology replace fungicide and pesticide seed treatments used in conventional agriculture to protect against soil borne diseases.

Crop Breeding for Organic Agriculture

Project title
VI.1 Healthy seed for organic production of cereals and legumes

Project leader
Bent J. Nielsen, senior scientist
Research Centre Flakkebjerg, Department of Crop protection
Danish Institute of Agricultural S
ciences (DIAS)


Improving bacterial seed treatments - advantages and problems with the use of molecular marker technologies.
C Leifert, TESCO Centre for Organic Agriculture, University of Newcastle, UK

Biocontrol activity of Pythium oligandrum and Coniothyrium minitans in pelleted and film-coated seed J M Whipps, HRI, Wellesbourne, UK; M P McQuilken, SAC, Auchincruive, UK

Effect of seed treatment with acetic acid for control of seed borne diseases A Borgen, Holmemosevej, Stege, Denmark
B J Nielsen, Danish Institute of Agricultural Sciences, Slagelse, Denmark

Use of mustard flour and milk powder to control common bunt (Tilletia tritici) in wheat and stem smut (Urocystis occulta) in rye in organic agriculture A Borgen, Holmemosevej, Stege, Denmark
L Kristensen, Royal Veterinary & Agricultural University, Tåstrup, Denmark
From: Small Grain Cereal Seed Treatment
In 1670 a ship carrying wheat grain went down off the coast of England near the city of Bristol. Evidently, the ship was close enough to shore that nearby farmers were able to retrieve some of the grain. Having been soaked in sea water, the grain was not fit for processing into flour, but some farmers planted it. The crop that resulted was remarkably free of "smut", whereas most of the fields planted with grain that had not been soaked in seawater showed heavy smut infestation.

Over the next 100 years, various people tried treating wheat seed with salt, lye, urine, etc. to see if they could reduce the amount of smut that developed. Use of a salt/brine mixture was known in various parts of Europe. The French botanist Tillet published an article on this in 1770 indicating that treating seed with such materials would reduce the amount of smut.
Managing Bacterial Diseases of Tomatoes and Peppers
1. Evaluate seed treatment options for their effects on seed germination and vigor, and bacterial inoculum reduction.
2. Evaluate foliar and soil treatments for bacterial canker in the greenhouse and field.
Evaluation of the different seed treatments in spring barley and winter wheat for the prevention of Ustilago nuda, Fusarium nivale and Pyrenophora teres
Juan Rodriguez (2000)

Seed borne disease effect crop cultures regularly giving reduced yield, reduced quality and economical losses. Current derogation (EU Regulation No 1804/1999) on the use of untreated conventional seed in organic systems runs out at 31 December of 2003. Therefore, alternative control measures for the prevention of seed borne pathogens in organic farming are required.

Six organic seed treatments [hot water at 51° and 53°C, garlic (Allium sativum) extract, horsetail (Equisetum arvense) decoction and waterglass, concentrated seaweed extract and sulphur powder] were applied on two barley and one winter wheat cultivars infected with 10.5% loose smut (Ustilago nuda), 54% of net blotch (Pyrenophora teres) and 51% of Fusarium nivale, respectively. In addition, different glasshouse and laboratory experiments were carried out in replicate blocks at different ambient temperature conditions. The levels of infection and the effect of the treatments on seed emergence and vigour were then evaluated and compared with chemical treated and untreated seeds.

Both hot water treatments had significant reductions in Fusarium symptoms and were comparable to the chemical fungicide. However, a significant diminution in germination of both barley cultivators was also recorded. Garlic extract significantly reduced Fusarium effects and did not have any effect on germination or vigour. The other organic treatments showed no significant reduction in any of the diseases. On some occasions a significant reduction in germination was observed in seeds treated with concentrated seaweed extract.

The use of biologicals to enhance vegetable seed quality.
Mark A. Bennett -
Beneficial bacteria and fungi provide promising alternatives or supplements to chemicals as seed treatments against soilborne pathogens. This review provides an assessment of biological control agents (BCA's) currently used with vegetable crop species, and key limitations to expanded use of BCA's as seed treatments.

Paper: Effect of Seed Treatments with Effective Microorganisms in control of common bunt (Tilletia tritici) in wheat. Denmark Agricultural College
In 1996 seeds contaminated with teleutospores of Tilletia tritici were treated with two levels of EM1, two levels of acetic acid and two levels of milk powder. A combination of EM1 and milk powder were tested as well Result: 'The high dose of acetic acid had the best effect on bunt disease, significantly better than even the highest dose of EM1.'

Web Resources: - International Seed Testing Association



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