There will be a tendency to cut production costs in 2016. It will be difficult to make a profit on soybeans with projected prices and current yields. So to move production into the black there will be a desire to cut some input costs. And seed treatment might be one input to be cut.

If you remember a decade ago, soybean seed was rarely treated; farmers often did it themselves when they loaded their planters. When planting, you never know what seedling diseases and insect pests your crop may encounter. And if the weather during your planting window is cool and damp, that puts more stress on the seedling, delaying germination and emergence, and increasing the risk of blight.

Over the past decade growers have come to realize that protecting the seed from the start pays off with more even emergence, better stand and higher yield potential. This could usually be done for $5 to $10 per acre or just over 1 bushel at today’s prices.

Over the last decade industry has responded to the need for protection by providing an array of seed treatment fungicides and insecticides for soybeans, and even treatments for SCN (cyst nematode) and SDS (Sudden Death Syndrome). Of course these products provide protection, but add in an inoculant and biological and you could be spending $30 per acre. It’s time to take a hard look at this decision, sort out what you really need and avoid using products that have little opportunity to provide a return of investment.

For example, if you practice a good rotation, have no real history of insect pests in the soil, and select varieties with a good defensive package, you can probably eliminate an insecticide from the package.

The University of Kentucky and The Ohio State University extension provided a list of scenarios where applying a seed treatment can provide an economic benefit:

  • Many soilborne pathogens require moisture, and poorly drained or flooded fields provide an environment conducive to disease.
  • (When) low seeding rates are used. Each and every seed becomes more important.
  • Spring was cool or you are planting early. Under these conditions, seedlings take longer to emerge, giving the soilborne pathogens more time to feed.
  • Your field has a history of Phytophthora presence, soybean cyst nematode (SCN) or another disease/pest.

Agronomist Dr. Daniel Davidson posts blogs on agronomy-related topics. Feel free to contact him at

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About the Author: Dan Davidson

Soybean agronomist Daniel Davidson, Ph.D., posts blogs on topics related to soybean agronomy. Feel free to contact him at or ring him at 402-649-5919.