Let yield maps and field history help you decide where you need to invest
The success of your entire season largely rests on seed. It’s hard to believe something no bigger than a pencil eraser has the potential to make or break your year.
“The full potential of the crop is locked in that seed,” says Bob Kemerait, University of Georgia plant pathologist. “Everything after planting either helps or detracts from it.”
There are many factors working against your seeds. Fungi see it as a great host, insects look at it as a tasty meal and microscopic nematodes attack the emerging seedlings. Specific field conditions might warrant seed and seedling protection.
Seed treatment can include fungicides, insecticides and nematicides or a combination of these.
“You need to ask yourself: ‘What is my target pest?’” says Phillip Glogoza, University of Minnesota Extension educator for crops. “Why am I going to use this product?”
When considering a seed treatment, take into account field history. Have you suffered yield loss because of fungi, diseases, insects or nematodes? Was the loss during the seedling stages when treatment would be beneficial? At the same time, take stock of factors, such as crop rotation, that increase risk.
Many seed companies automatically treat corn seed, but you might be able to decide the level of protection. When it comes to soybeans, treatment is optional. With the cost of treatment ranging from $10 to $20 per acre, depending on the level of protection, it all comes down to ROI.
“[If you’re planting in wet conditions,] I would definitely be looking at fungicides. Moisture breeds pathogens,” Glogoza says.
The biggest threats are Phytophthora and Pythium. If the pathogens exist in your field and conditions are wet, there’s a good chance one of those will show up. Phytophthora thrives in soil temperatures above 60°F, and Pythium prefers temperatures below that point.
Consider an insecticide if you’re concerned about wire worms, seed corn maggots, white grubs, cutworms, bean leaf beetles or aphids.
Check treatment labels for the pest you’re targeting. There are two levels of protection: suppression and control. If your target insect is only labeled for suppression, it means there can be some pest mortality, but it’s difficult to predict how much. With control, you can expect 90% to 95% mortality, Glogoza says.
Insect pests can be problematic, but nematodes can be just as bad. There is a short window to control nematodes, and once the furrow closes, the window slams shut.
“You don’t really get a second chance on nematode control,” Kemerait says. “Seed treatments offer growers who don’t want in-furrow or fumigation a convenient option.”
If nematodes are present in your fields, they will likely be a problem for several years. There are two treatment options: biological or systemic. Biologicals use living organisms such as bacteria to protect the roots. Systemic nematicides are taken up and integrated into the root system. When nematodes feed on the root, they die.
“At DuPont Pioneer, we’ve seen a 2.6 bu. per acre advantage across all environments [using Lumivia seed treatment] and 8.2 bu. per acre advantage under pressure in our testing,” says Mark Reisinger, DuPont Pioneer seed treatment senior marketing manager.
Let yield maps and field history guide whether you need a seed treatment—a blanket treatment might not be necessary.