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BASF gets into seed treatments in big way

If the $250-per-bag price tag for this year's hottest triple-stack corn hybrids prompts you to clench your jaw and tighten your gut, hold on. Seed prices will keep climbing.

When the next wave of traits hits early next decade -- those that include multiple insect and weed control traits -- you'll likely be paying $350 to $450 per bag. "I've heard some growers say $500 per bag," says Andy Lee, director of business operations, U.S. crop protection at BASF.

The good news is that technologies like seed treatments will enable you to protect that seed investment, says Lee. He and other BASF officials gave a glimpse of what they have planned in this area at this week's Commodity Classic in Nashville, Tennessee.

BASF is getting into the seed treatment business in a big way. It first entered it in 2003, when it bought the Regent corn insecticide seed treatment technology from Bayer CropScience. Since then, it's also placed much effort in developing its own seed treatment technology.

Going into this February, BASF offered three seed treatment products:

  • Regent TS, an insecticide seed treatment in corn
  • Charter fungicide seed treatment for professional application on wheat and barley
  • Charter PB, formulated for on-farm application in wheat and barley.

By 2009, though, BASF will bring its seed treatment offerings up to 11.

The first new treatment out of the blocks is Stamina, which U.S. regulators approved earlier this month. This corn fungicide contains the same active ingredient -- F 500 -- that's contained in Headline, BASF's foliar fungicide used by corn and soybean farmers.

BASF officials say Stamina will boost plant survival out of the ground by boosting stress tolerance, such as seedling survival in cold soils.

"That helps with earlier planting," says Dirk Voeste, head of seed treatment business development-global strategic marketing for BASF crop protection.

There is a cost for Stamina, but you won't be able to break out the price since it will already come with the seed from the seed company. BASF gave no specifics on pricing, but it will be competitively priced in the marketplace, says Craig Lindholm, marketing manager, seed treatments for the U.S. crop division of BASF.

Other seed treatment products BASF plans to have in place by 2009 include:

  • A new fungicide seed treatment for soybeans and other legumes. This seed treatment will also use the F 500 active ingredient. BASF officials expect U.S. registration in fall 2008.
  • Two cereals seed treatment
  • A corn seed treatment
  • A crop fungicide seed treatment
  • A crop insecticide seed treatment
  • A vegetables and cotton seed treatment

There's room for growth in seed treatments, say BASF officials. Lindholm says just 37% of winter wheat is treated in the U.S. He notes, though, that seed treatments can boost yields and cover the cost of the seed treatment investment. Charter applications boosted yields by 4.6 bushels per acre versus untreated wheat on average in BASF trials across the United States.

"You'll get faster emergence, and more vigorous growth," he says. "There is excellent seed safety and control of diseases that matter in cereal crops."

Lee notes that rising crop prices accompanied by rising costs of land and inputs require a new management strategy.

"It's a different way of thinking, like that of an investment banker," he says. "If I put money in, how will I get (more) money back? Seed treatments are one way you can get it back."

If the $250-per-bag price tag for this year's hottest triple-stack corn hybrids prompts you to clench your jaw and tighten your gut, hold on. Seed prices will keep climbing.

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