Seeing is believing. Treating soybean seed is a good investment in yield.

Billions of dollars are invested by many companies to bring the best seed treatment products to market. This year Burrus Seed expanded its seed treatment research using various treatment components, in research plots as well as on-farm trials. Keep in mind that many of the seed treatment components we evaluated aren’t currently available, so we are required to follow company evaluation protocols.

Companies have their own data sets for their seed treatment packages, from various locations over many years. Results are often shown as “percentage of wins.” One of our goals is to see if our data set follows the trend of a larger data set. We also know that many of these seed treatment components must be good if they make it to market. Since there are usually small statistical differences when comparing various seed treatment packages, we focus on visual evaluation of how well these products perform at emergence within our selling footprint.

The Burrus research team planted one early soybean seed treatment trial on April 15 near Arenzville, Illinois. The plot obviously endured cool and wet conditions as well as early insect pressure, which are ideal conditions for seed treatment evaluation. When Josh Gunther, our product lead, recently evaluated this soybean plot, he observed major differences among seed treatment packages that consisted of a neonictinoid insecticide component compared with untreated soybeans.

Soy Envoy Kevin Nelson recently did a great job reviewing Bean Leaf Beetles: The Pest That Keeps on Giving. He also referenced a Nebraska publication stating that beetle counts of two to four beetles per plant at VC to V1 development stage may warrant treatment, considering current soybean prices and treatment costs. No foliar treatment is necessary if you have already invested in a seed treatment that consists of a neonicotinoid insecticide.

Nelson also mentioned that he has seen dramatic differences between treated and non-treated soybeans in high bean leaf beetle (BLB) feeding years. We were also able to see the same differences, as shown in the photos below.


Soybean variety consisted of a full seed treatment package with a neonicotinoid insecticide.


Note the dead BLB next to the soybean variety that consisted of a full seed treatment package with a neonicotinoid insecticide.


Soybeans that were untreated clearly had a greater amount of BLB feeding.

In one of my recent articles, What’s the Right Recipe to Coat Naked Soybeans I noted that some companies may claim an additional growth or vigor effect from a neonicotinoid insecticide seed treatment component. In the side by side picture below, this additional growth or vigor effect can be seen.


The picture on the left consists of a full seed treatment package with a neonicotinoid insecticide. The picture on the right is an example of the same variety that is untreated.

Many question the need for an insecticidal component within seed treatments. Indeed, insecticidal treatments may not be warranted with some environments, later planting dates or lower insect pressures. However as we continue to plant earlier each year to achieve higher yields, “seeing is believing” when evaluating seed treatments.

In his Six Secrets of Soybean Success, Dr. Fred Below of the University of Illinois explained that he ranked a full seed treatment package among the top five secrets of soybean success ─ not only because it could give you up to 5,000 or 15,000 seedlings per acre, but also because treated soybeans often grow faster early and remain larger throughout the season, depending on environmental conditions.

Stephanie Porter is a sales agronomist with Burrus® Hybrids. She educates growers and Burrus staff on all types of pests, weeds, diseases and other agronomic issues that affect corn, soybean and alfalfa production. She is a 2017 Illinois Soybean Association CCA Soy Envoy.

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About the Author: Stephanie Porter

As Outreach Agronomist for the Illinois Soybean Association (ISA), Stephanie supports research efforts and helps communicate both in-field and edge-of-field research and validation studies to Illinois 43,000 soybean farmers. She also helps lead the demonstration and adoption of conservation agriculture practices and raises awareness of best management and continuous improvement practices for conservation agriculture in Illinois. Stephanie has 23 years of experience that consists of agronomy, conservation, horticulture, plant diagnostics, and education. She has her bachelor’s in crop science and master’s in plant pathology from the University of Illinois. Stephanie is a Certified Crop Advisor and was named the 2018 Illinois Certified Crop Adviser Master Soybean Advisor. She also has experience with corn and soybean pathology research, crop scouting, soil testing, as well as crop consulting. Previously, she utilized her diagnostic training and collaborated with University of Illinois departmental Extension Specialists to diagnose plant health problems and prepare written responses describing the diagnosis and management recommendations as the University of Illinois Plant Clinic.