New research suggests that applying a silicon biostimulant to crops for farm-saved seed can help to improve the resilience of a subsequent crop and protect from potential slug damage.

A recent study by i2L has shown applying Sirius (silicon) boosts the natural silicon level in wheat seed and strengthens the plant. Sowing this silicon-enhanced farm-saved seed can result in the following seedlings being stronger and more resilient to attack.

James Kennedy, managing director of Orion FT, says the trials demonstrate that Sirius can improve plant health and quality. “Silicon is a natural element which plants actively take up to help improve cell strength, cell adhesion, and increase cuticle thickness, all of which improve plant health and make crops more resilient to pests such as slugs.”

Pest pressure

Previous trials using silicon to strengthen oilseed rape showed a reduction in cabbage stem flea beetle, while a similar study showed aphid reduction in sugar beet when silicon levels were increased.

“Silicon improves plant resilience to environmental stress and the trial data shows that plants treated with Sirius also accumulate more silicon in the seed. The resulting increase of silicon translates to more silicon in the crop grown from that seed. This is a major breakthrough and will offer a new benefit for those using Sirius,” he adds.

In the trial, seedlings grown from wheat treated with Sirius that had higher levels of silicon when compared with an untreated sample. Slug feeding reduced from 65 to 45%.

Physical barrier

“We also looked at the effect of spraying the emerging crop with silicon to create a physical barrier. This reduced feeding on the untreated seed sample to 32%, but the seed taken from the previous crop with higher silicon levels reduced slug feeding to just 23%, almost a third of the damage seen in the untreated crop,” he says.

By applying Sirius at traditional fungicide timings in the spring, growers can improve plant health and seed quality. Drilling seed from a crop treated with Sirius, and subsequently spraying it post-emergence with silicon, showed the greatest benefit to early season crop management when slugs were a threat.

“We recommend applying Sirius at a rate of 0.5 l/ha, at an approximate cost of £20 per application. To benefit in the early autumn, apply soon after crop emergence at growth stage 11-13, follow up applications can be beneficial.  Sirius doesn’t alter the pH of a solution, so it’s easy to tank mix which eliminates the necessity for multiple spray passes,” concludes James.