I received an email about using seed treatments on soybeans from an ILSoyAdvisor reader. “I am currently into soybean farming and wanted to get your suggestions on the right kind of seed treatment, process and its uses. Kindly also recommend the use of insecticides and fungicides as well.”

Today probably 80 to 85 percent of full season soybeans are treated with a seed treatment. Most contain three fungicides and one insecticide and perhaps a biological and inoculant. However, there are limits to how much product a seed can hold. Fortunately, the load for individual products have gone down per seed so more products can be added to keep it at or under the limit.

Many seed companies sell seed with treatments on the seed. That is done at the dealer level right before planting, since you can’t return treated soybean seed—it must be planted or destroyed. Most growers, as they reduce the planting rate of high cost seed and plant earlier and often into marginal conditions, are convinced that the small cost involved is like insurance and a good investment. And today, seed treatments are available that provide a partial level of control of major soybean threats like SCN (soybean cyst nematode) and SDS (Sudden Death Syndrome).

Of course, universities who advocate and follow IPM approaches say that in many cases seed treatments are unnecessary and unprofitable. These treatments can lead to development of fungicide and insecticide resistance in the soil, pathogens and critters we want to control. However, this does not seem to dissuade growers, who want to plant earlier and at lower seed rates, from using seed treatments. And the savings in seed cost can be applied to seed treatments.

Growers don’t have a lot of input into seed treatment selections. Each dealer puts together a portfolio of products that can be used. The two major seed treatment manufacturers are Bayer and Syngenta and each has their complement of products that are packaged for individual seed companies. And today most contain two to three fungicides to help control Fusarium, Rhizoctonia, Pythium and Phytophthora and perhaps Phomopsis. Each company has their own insecticide active ingredients and both have product lines for SCN and SDS.

Of course, there are other sources for inoculants and biologicals that are available in the U.S. market and dealers often have access to a selection of products. However, seed companies are sensitive and want to approve any product that goes on their seed. The last thing they want is for a seed treatment package to impact seed germination and emergence. Most of us believe the seed treatment industry will continue to grow as more biological products come to market, and seed is a very efficient and effective way to deliver this technology to growers.

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

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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 djdavidson@agwrite.com or ring him at 402-649-5919.