CropLife America (CLA) staff experts presented in the areas of seed treatment and drift reduction technology at Informa's "Crops and Chemicals USA" event in Raleigh, N.C., earlier this week. Jay Vroom, president and CEO of CLA, and Mike Leggett, Ph.D., senior director of environmental policy, spoke to an audience that included industry representatives from around the globe. 

Vroom spoke to session participants about the many innovations surrounding the development and use of modern seed treatments. "The state of seed treatments today represents one of the most effective and widespread adaptation of precision agriculture on the American landscape," Vroom emphasized. "In an age of heightened attention on product safety, worker protection and productivity enhancement, seed treatments are leading the way to both ensuring American farmers remain globally competitive and meeting multiple environmental demands." The American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) and CLA are also actively engaged in an outreach campaign to publicize “The Guide to Seed Treatment Stewardship,” an industry-wide initiative designed to promote the safe handling and management of treated seed and also serves to reinforce the importance the seed industry places on seed treatment stewardship.

"Seed treatments already in use are beneficial to the environment, farm productivity and consumers, but the next generation of seed treatment technology will continue to revolutionize both urban and agricultural landscapes," Vroom declared. While the global value of seed treatment products already exceed annual sales of $3 billion, experts generally agree the market is still growing rapidly. "Not only are active ingredient pesticide products providing critical benefits, rapidly evolving formulation technology and innovative coatings to physically protect seed and effect slow release are also predicted to make significant contributions to farm productivity in the near future."

CropLife Foundation’s report on the benefits of seed treatment, The Role of Seed Treatment in Modern U.S. Crop Production, illustrates the sweeping positive outcomes that have been derived from this exciting and rapidly growing sector. "Data from a variety of field experiments clearly indicate that fungicide seed treatments regularly enhance yields by 15 percent or more, with similar and greater results obtained from insecticide treatments. Accomplishing more with less is certainly a business mantra today. Seed treatments embrace that concept in the application of crop production," Vroom concluded.

Leggett addressed the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) long-awaited Drift Reduction Technology (DRT) program, which is nearing launch. Leggett's presentation focused on what the program means for product labeling. The crop protection industry has been working with EPA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for a number of years as they designed protocols for testing DRT for approval. Implementation of an effective DRT program is an excellent example of an EPA action designed to make applications safer and reduce the potential for environmental impacts without imposing restrictions. The DRT program is designed to provide incentives to growers adopting the latest technology for drift reduction by reducing the buffer restrictions on the label consistent with the reduction in potential for off-site movement due to the use of that technology.

At the outset, the program is focused on nozzle technology and therefore somewhat limited in scope. It is also likely to require a great deal of testing for registrants and application technology manufacturers to take advantage of the opportunities the program provides, adding to product development costs.

Despite some shortcomings, Leggett is optimistic. "The applied science in estimation of drift potential, the factors influencing drift and application technology continue to evolve,” he noted. “Introducing a DRT program is an important step, and industry is hopeful that the program will continue to evolve as the science and technology advances."

For more information about seed treatment technology, visit www.croplifeamerica.org/seedtreatment. For more information about drift mitigation, visit www.croplifeamerica.org/pesticide-issues/spray-drift.