Seed industry seeks high yield and sustainability duo
Seed treatment choices matter more than farmers might consider. When choosing a potential technology to put on seed, Tim Eyrich, senior manager, Plant Nutrition Development, WinField, focuses on one factor: How does it affect the sink-to-source relationship? The sink-to-source relationship, which drives early season nutrient acquisition and root growth, must be established as quickly as possible.
Screening new technologies for seed is a big challenge, said Tim Eyrich, senior manager, Plant Nutrition Development, WinField, at the 2014 Exceed the Seed Symposium.
“For any plant, the most important thing is early season vigor, and the biggest limiting factor to high yield is nutrient acquisition,” said Eyrich, addressing the crowd at the Exceed the Seed Symposium in Chicago.
As farmers prepare for planting, there are particular treatment concerns that should weigh heavily in the decision-making process. Fungicides are a natural fit, particularly systemic ones to protect against seedling disease. As farmers delve into biologicals, biostimulants and plant growth regulators, data must back up purported efficacy.
As the agriculture industry moves away from broad spread application of pesticides, fungicides, herbicides and biosolutions, John Moreland, director of sales and marketing, Oliver Manufacturing, described seed treatments as a fast-growing market. Rather than broadcasting across a field, those technologies are increasingly placed on the seed for a more eco-friendly application.
Moreland advises farmers to always consider cost, return and yield when choosing seed treatments. “A treatment is going to cost a farmer X amount of dollars per seed,” he said. “A farmer has to look at the feasibility of applying technologies to the seed against other practices, in-furrow or otherwise. In my mind, it’s all about return on investment. Those things a farmer spends additional money on must return yield increases to justify the applications.”
In light of lower commodity prices, farmers need to be choosy about seed treatment technologies, such as biologicals, to extract high yields.
“Farmers should be asking about the spectrum of control and make sure it is a specific fit to their needs,” said Steve Bergschneider, BASF U.S. Crop Seed Enhancement manager. “Is a seed treatment covering the scope of diseases faced by the farmer? I think a farmer needs to ask a lot more questions about biologicals and the difference between products in the marketplace. A farmer should ask what product is being used and exactly why it was chosen.”
The most significant issue facing the seed industry, according to Mike McFatrich, director of business management, Seed Solutions, BASF, is the continued development of technologies that positively impact yield in a sustainable manner—and that’s where seed treatments play a vital role.
“Growers need to be able to do more with less and make sure the plant delivers, McFatrich said. “Part of proper delivery is making sure of a good start and a good finish to each crop. The window of protection for seed must work beyond the front-end. It has to be extended to truly complement the genetics for most of the growing season.”
Growers should be aware of what is in a seed treatment package that addresses precise disease concerns. “In the case of downstream applications, particularly in soybeans or wheat, take a look at the coating products,” McFatrich said. “Seed coating sounds like a trivial consideration, but coatings really improve seed flow, singulation and drop. Essentially, growers have to make sure they’re optimizing planting rates and populations, as well as making sure the seed flows appropriately.”
The seed industry faces interesting times as it pushes to increase yields across varied environments. Achieving yield gains with less in a sustainable manner is the target.