Superabsorbent polymers (SAPs) applied to soil have been recognized as water reservoirs that allow plants to cope with periods of drought. Their application as a seed coat makes water available directly to the seeds during their germination and early growth phase, but on the other hand, it can affect the efficiency of plant protection substances used in seed dressing. In our experiments, we evaluated the effect of seed coating with SAP on fungicide leaching and changes in their effectiveness in suppressing Fusarium culmorum infestation. Leaching of fungicide from wheat seeds coated with SAP after fungicide dressing, as measured by the inhibition test of mycelium growth under in vitro conditions, was reduced by 14.2-15.8% compared to seeds without SAP coating. Germination of maize seeds and growth of juvenile plants in artificially infected soil did not differ significantly between seeds dressed with fungicide alone and seeds treated with SAP and fungicide. In addition, plants from the seeds coated with SAP alone grew significantly better compared to untreated seeds. Real-time PCR also confirmed this trend by measuring the amount of pathogen DNA in plant tissue. Winter wheat was less tolerant to F. culmorum infection and without fungicide dressing, the seeds were unable to germinate under strong pathogen attack. In the case of milder infection, similar results were observed as in the case of maize seeds.
Keywords: crop production; drought; seed coating; seed dressing; superabsorbent polymers.