Seed World

Lightning Disinfects Seeds, Naturally!

By only using ambient air, water, and (green) electricity, seeds and crops can be cleaned from pathogens.

Quiz question: what is the name of the fourth state of matter after solid, liquid, and gas? It’s plasma! And did you know that it makes up 99 per cent of our universe? What if we told you that there is now a way to use plasma to treat and disinfect your seeds!

But first let’s get back to what plasma actually is. Basically, it is superheated matter, and it is so hot that the electrons are ripped away from the atoms, resulting in an ionized gas. We can witness plasma as it glows in the form of stars or nebulas, and even the auroras that sometimes ripple above the north and south poles. Lightning is one of nature’s ways of making plasma, but plasma is also present in the neon signs along our city streets. And so is our sun, the star that makes life on earth possible.


The company VitalFluid has developed a process by which plasma-activated water (PAW) is generated by electrical discharge. This mimics the process in nature, where PAW, in the form of rain is generated during lightning. And this type of water contains various reactive molecules such as nitrogen oxide and hydrogen peroxide which have the potential to inactivate microorganisms.

Testing has shown that PAW can be used for seed sanitation, as it removes fungi, bacteria and viruses. VitalFluid’s CEO, Paul Leenders is very excited about all the possibilities of Plasma Activated Water: “It is a sustainable solution for many issues in agriculture without using chemicals. By only using ambient air, water, and (green) electricity, it can clean seeds and crops from pathogens and supply crops the nutrient nitrogen.”

VitalFluid has recently teamed up with PETKUS to boost the development of nature-based seed treatment solutions for flower and vegetable seeds. The technologies developed by both companies complement each other very well, allowing for more effective seed treatments. VitalFluid has developed a process to generate Plasma Activate Water (PAW). And PETKUS applies this technology to make their seed disinfection process HySeed Bio even more effective.



“By combining the technologies of VitalFluid and PETKUS, a complete seed treatment package can be offered,” says Marcel Wolbrink, managing director of PETKUS Selecta. This can be achieved in different ways; for example, by applying PAW onto seeds in a batch process, which enables application of PAW with high reproducibility at desired dosages (Selecta CF04 bio treater). “Another option is to combine PAW with the MultiCoater CM HySeed bio unit that disinfects seeds with active steam,” he adds.

For effective seed treatment technology, it is crucial that the PAW can be applied to the seeds in a reproducible manner and in the desired dosage. For this purpose, PETKUS Selecta designed a fully automated set-up, the Selecta CF04 bio treater. The CF04 bio enables to dose each batch of seeds very precisely and ensures a uniform treatment of the seed that is reproducible for all batches of a seed lot. The entire treatment process in the CF04 bio treater is fully automated and is carried out with developed recipes. The information for each batch is stored and the treatment parameters can be traced back.


Ongoing research with PAW to remove seed borne diseases, carried out at VitalFluid, in cooperation with Ineke Wijkamp from Seed2Plant, showed a significant reduction of fungal and bacterial contaminants. In specific cases 100 per cent removal of pathogens was achieved after the sanitation process with PAW, without significant negative effect on germination. “In some cases of sanitation of flower seeds with a high contamination of general fungi, the germination was improved up to 130 per cent, as compared to the untreated control; basically, due to the removal of excess of fungal spores from the seed surface,” says Wijkamp.

For more information, watch the seed treatment demo: