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Seed Armor: 12 seed treatment tips

Gil Gullickson 05/08/2013 @ 4:06pm Crops Technology Editor for Successful Farming magazine/Agriculture.com

A costume is to a comic book superhero what a baseball is to a bat. After all, who would Iron Man be without his armor?

Trouble is, one particular costume doesn’t always work for other super-heroes. Years ago, some genius fit Spider Man with a suit of armor. This protected the speedy web slinger from enemy blows. Unfortunately, the armor also stripped Spider Man of his foe-avoiding agility.

Flash forward now to the world of seed treatments. This seed armor can protect your seed against insects, disease, and nematodes. It can also enhance yields with tools like soybean inoculants.

The stakes are high these days. Before Roundup Ready soybean seed debuted in 1996, some farmers still planted no-cost bin-run seed. With costs of some highly sought-after soybean varieties now hovering around $60 per acre, spending up to $15 per acre on seed treatments makes more sense, says Shawn Conley, University of Wisconsin Extension agronomist.  

Ditto for corn. If you plant the latest multistack-traited corn with prices over $125 per acre, you need as many seeds as possible to emerge.

“You’ll read that this year’s crop is the most valuable ever,” says Conley. “From the input side, it’s the most risky ever. Seed treatments can remove some of that risk.”

Don’t forget other factors

It’s important not to let this armor immobilize other tools you use, though. With soybeans, do first things first, says Seth Naeve, University of Minnesota Extension agronomist. Start by choosing the highest-yielding, full-season varieties available.

“Then, plant these varieties with prescriptive defensive packages,” says Naeve. Seed treatments can play an agronomic role, but only if they’re used judiciously.

Some choices have already been made for you with corn, as all seed is already coated with a fungicide and insecticide. You still have a choice, though, for seed protection that fends off corn nematodes.

Here are 12 questions you may have about seed treatments and answers to help you fit them into your agronomic strategy. 1. What niche do seed treatments fit?

There’s a reason why fungicides have coated corn for decades. You plant corn earlier than soybeans in most cases, often in cool, wet soils.

“The longer the seed is in cold, wet soils, the more chance of encountering issues with fungal or insect pathogens,” says Ethan Luth, Bayer CropScience product manager.

As a result, corn hybrids have seed treated with a fungicide and an insecticide, says Luth.

Use is not as widespread in soybeans, although seed treatments are rapidly growing. Luth estimates about 70% to 75% of U.S. soybeans are now fungicide treated, with 45% to 50% treated with both insecticide and fungicide.

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