If you’ve discussed seed purchases with farmer-customers lately, you probably already know what many analysts are predicting–there are going to be more soybeans going into the ground next spring. Informa Economics estimates that soybean acres will climb nearly 6% to a record of 88.4 million acres in 2017. At the same time, farmers are investing more money than ever in soybean seed (See chart. Prices are provided by USDA).
It’s no wonder then that farmers are looking for ways to protect their seed investment and, at the same time, boost soybean yield results. Using effective seed treatments–from fungicides and insecticides to biologicals and polymers–is one way you can help growers address both goals. Here are a few considerations to help you in the process.
Pick The Right Product. Retailers provide a much-needed service in helping farmers select products that address their specific disease and pest issues. But sometimes that’s a challenge, says Kurt Seevers, Verdesian Life Sciences technical development manager, seed treatments and inoculants. He explains that because some retailers today are tied to a single company’s seed treatment package, they may be somewhat limited in their ability to offer the best treatment for a specific issue in their farmers’ fields. That’s why it’s good to have a contingency plan in place, Seevers notes.
“We’re seeing a lot more customization of seed treatments and on-demand seed treatment systemstoday for that reason,” he says. “Sometimes it’s just a matter that the grower needs something else, maybe an inoculant or a plant growth promoter, or maybe he has a consistent incidence of a specific disease that requires a higher rate of fungicide on his seed.”
Put In Place Good Application Processes. Approximately 80% of soybean treatments are applied by retailers and cooperatives, and most are treated the day before or the day of planting. In advance, you need to know the required treatment steps; product “recipe”; and correct physical parameters for the temperature, mixing speed, time needed and drying process, according to Heinz-Friedrich Schnier, head of the Bayer SeedGrowth Application Center.
Protect The Investment. Along with that, consider how soon you want to start treating seed. Soybean seed has a high oil content and can freeze, making it more vulnerable to damage. The amount of injury depends on the seed coat–some are more elastic than others–and how much the seed is banged around in an auger, conveyor or treater.
Seevers advises moving seed into a storage area with a temperature of at least 45°F for a day or two ahead of treating. This step will help to minimize potential damage during the treatment process.
Another benefit of treating seed that’s been allowed to warm up is that it can absorb more product.
“A tacky, sticky seed surface causes bridging, meaning the seed clumps up and doesn’t flow freely or not at all in some situations,” Seevers says.
Soybean seed coats can only absorb a certain amount of product, says Emmanuel Byamukama, South Dakota State University Extension plant pathologist.
There is a maximum of 8 oz. per cwt. of the total mix (seed treatment, water, etc.) that can be on soybeans because the seed coat of the soybean is less absorbent than that of other seeds, Byamukama explains. The industry minimum application rate is 3 oz. per cwt. of soybean seed.
Small Considerations, Big Impact. One thing retailers don’t often consider is the size of the seed being treated. The smaller the seed, the higher the minimum amount of liquid should be applied because more surface area needs to be covered. It’s also useful to evaluate the concentration of products.
“Say you use a less concentrated fungicide,” Seevers says. “That might be a bit cheaper, but you’re taking up space that would give you an opportunity to apply something else to add a benefit to the seed.”
Less product on the seed also helps it dry faster.
“That’s important when you’ve got four or five trucks with seed tenders lined up to pick up seed,” he adds.
With the lower commodity prices farmers have experienced the past few years, it’s more important than ever that you know what the payoff is for using the seed treatment you recommend.
Prepare To Discuss Return On Investment. “Farmers planting earlier in the season have a greater chance of soybean seeds or seedlings being exposed to cool, wet conditions, which increases the chance for disease and pests. Seed treatment is a way to protect their seed investment or give assurance that soybeans will be better equipped to endure harsher conditions,” says Stephanie Porter, Burrus Seed sales agronomist.
Seevers says the value of some seed treatments is straightforward.
“With the premium inoculant products, long-term averages show that seven out of 10 times you get a positive response averaging about 2 bu. per acre,” he says.
Inoculants cost $3.50 to $4 an acre, so the payoff from a high-quality one in soybeans can be considerable.
Seevers notes, “You want the grower to end the season in the best possible position he can yield-wise, and the only way to do that is to get that plant off to a great start.”
Evaluate Seed Treatment Benefits
In February, Farm Journal will feature a story on seed treatments. It will highlight the advances and the benefits/disadvantages of downstream treatment and the new trend of farmers treating their own seed. DuPont Pioneer has identified six potential advantages to treating soybean seed that you can review with customers this winter. Those potential advantages are:
- Improving seedling emergence and stand establishment
- Enhancing early plant vigor and root development
- Reducing feeding of overwintering bean leaf beetles
- Suppressing soybean aphid early in the season
- Managing the risk of replant
- Helping to maximize yield potential