Report examines value of seed treatment for agriculture

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CropLife Foundation (CLF) released “The Role of Seed Treatment in Modern U.S. Crop Production,” an in-depth report detailing the uses of seed treatments, primarily fungicides and insecticides, and the resulting benefits for growers, consumers and the environment. The report highlights the role of modern seed treatments in producing healthier, more uniform crops; increasing crop value; and allowing growers to plant earlier in the season, all while reducing potential environmental exposure through an increasingly precise application method.

Seed treatment refers to the direct application of crop protection products to the surface of a seed prior to planting. This method of crop protection suppresses, controls and repels pathogens, insects and other pests that threaten to limit seed viability and health from the time that the seed enters the soil through its development. Seed treatment also helps protect high-quality seed that has been enhanced through other agricultural technologies, such as hybrid or genetically modified seed, resulting in added value to growers.

The CLF report cites research conducted throughout the country on some of the measurable, beneficial impacts of seed treatment:

Grower benefits:

  • Fungicide seed treatments active against the fungus Thielaviopsis produced a 65 percent increase in cotton stands in California compared to untreated cotton seed;
  • Seed treatment insecticides applied to rice seed in Arkansas reduced damage from grape colapsis larvae by up to 83 percent;
  • Yields of spring wheat and spring barley increased by 25 percent following the application of seed treatment, according to trials conducted at Montana State University;
  • Neonicotinoid seed treatments more than doubled stands of sorghum in Louisiana research trials.

Environmental benefits:

  • Potential soil surface exposure is reduced by up to 90 percent compared to other application methods such as in-furrow applications or broadcast sprays;
  • Seed treatment technology has improved from application of ounces per hundred weight of seed (cwt) to milligrams per individual seed.

Economic benefits:

  • Through increased protection and greater crop yields, seed treatment helped contribute to nearly $80 billion worth of value to American corn growers in 2011;
  • Seed varieties developed through modern breeding techniques, combined with effective seed treatments, provide nearly 100 percent crop stand – almost every seed produces a mature plant.

CLF held a press event this morning at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., which included presentations from Jay Vroom, CLF’s chair of the board of directors; Andrew W. LaVigne, president and CEO of the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA); and Tim Burrack, farmer and vice chair of the board of directors of Truth About Trade & Technology (TATT).

Vroom highlighted key findings of the report and emphasized the value of seed treatment for farmers in the U.S., including the class of neonicotinoid insecticides. “CLF’s new report includes detailed information on an array of seed treatment solutions, including neonicotinoid insecticides, which provide excellent control of many insect pests, and have also been shown to improve plant health,” Vroom noted. “These products are strictly regulated in the U.S. by the EPA, and under science-based regulations, American farmers continue to reap the benefits of these products. Seed treatment is a vital component in the array of technologies that American farmers select in order to produce food, feed, fiber and fuel for their communities.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) current regulatory process for neonicotinoids and other crop protection products establishes protection levels for both humans and wildlife on the basis of numerous scientific tests. Strict product labeling standards established by EPA also ensure that products are used responsibly. Through a periodic review process, EPA continues to assess any potential risks of neonicotinoids and other crop protection products.

To download the full report, visit

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