Farm Journal Associate Field Agronomist Missy Bauer adds talc to corn to improve its flow through the equipment and prevent doubles or skips.
Like a cocoon shelters a developing butterfly, seed treatments wrap a protective blanket around corn and soybean seed and seedlings, shielding them from potential diseases and pests.
During the past decade, seed treatments have gone from near obscurity to superstar status with a value that’s quickly increasing in size and scope, both for farmers and the companies that produce them. Today, seed treatments comprise a $2.5 billion global business, according to Kline & Company, an international consulting firm based in Little Falls, N.J.
In the U.S., the No. 1 seed treatment market, roughly all seed corn and 50% of all soybean seed is coated with a fungicide, insecticide, nematicide or a combination of the three prior to planting. Industry experts anticipate those percentages to climb.
Syngenta Seeds bulk equipment specialist Gary Wietgrefe estimates that by 2012 approximately 80% of soybean seed in the U.S. will be treated prior to planting.
A number of financially driven factors have contributed to the rapid adoption of seed treatments, including higher seed values, strong commodity prices and the desire to minimize the risk of losing expensive seed planted in cold, wet soils.
In addition, farmers value seed-applied products for their ease of use and handling safety benefits, notes Gary Munkvold, Iowa State University plant pathologist.
"Seed inputs that can substitute for management practices are highly valued by farmers," he says.
Companies have responded to the opportunity by ramping up their research, production and marketing of seed treatments.
- BASF entered the seed treatment market in 2003 and by 2010 offered 11 different seed treatments across a range of crops and launched its Web site.
- Valent launched Inovate this year. The seed-applied insecticide/fungicide combination for soybeans contains three systemic products: clothianidin, metalaxyl and ipconazole.
- Syngenta Seed Care introduced Avicta Complete Corn, a combination of Avicta seed treatment nematicide, Cruiser seed treatment insecticide and a three-way seed treatment fungicide package that provides consistent, proven protection against nematodes, insects and diseases.
- Bayer CropScience introduced Poncho/Votivo corn nematicide. It contains root-colonizing bacteria that create a living barrier around corn roots to prevent nematodes from feeding, essentially starving the pests or forcing them to find another plant food source.
- Monsanto made Acceleron seed treatment, for early season protection against soilborne and seedborne diseases and early insect pests, a standard part of all Genuity SmartStax corn hybrids and Genuity Roundup Ready 2 Yield soybean varieties the company introduced this year.
For 2011, soybean producers will have the option to treat their Genuity Roundup Ready 2 Yield or Roundup Ready soybeans with Acceleron, a competitive product or no seed treatment at all.
Along with new products, corn and soybean growers can anticipate having access next year to revamped seed treatments that are packed with new benefits.
Syngenta is close to launching Avicta Complete Corn with a four-way fungicide, says Cliff Watrin, Technical Manager for Syngenta Seed Care.
- Seed Guide 2010