Usually the in-season crop management decisions get the most attention.
Deciding whether to apply an insecticide today or wait until tomorrow to see if beneficials will handle the problem may affect crop yield. So do herbicide applications, fungicide sprays and fertility decisions.
But farmers establish a big part of their yield potential, as much as 65 percent, before the first seed goes into the ground. Selecting the right variety plays a big role. So, too, does choosing whether to invest in a seed treatment, says David Long, technical crop manager for Syngenta Crop Protection.
Long discussed the evolution of seed treatment technology at the recent Ag Technology Conference, an annual seminar held on the campus of Texas A&M-Commerce.
“Advantages of seed treatments include improved emergence,” Long said. “Stand uniformity, better seedling vigor and increased yield also improve a grower's return on investment.”
He said growers should begin with high quality seed to assure uniform, early and fast emergence. Selecting a seed treatment adds other dimensions. “Growers need to identify what they need — disease or insect control — so they can target specific pests that may reduce yield significantly.
“Also, know the product in use and be aware of pesticide stewardship.”
Long said early season environmental factors such as wet, cold or dry conditions may retard a seedling's early growth. “Under these conditions, young plants become even more susceptible to disease and insect damage. The young plant does not effectively take up nutrients. With an effective seed treatment, when conditions improve, the seedling should be protected from these yield limiting pest.”Seed treatments provide protection in the soil, in the bag, and in storage. “The seed itself harbors pathogens,” Long said. “Then you have soil insects, storage insects, animal pests (deer, birds, hogs and others).”
He said wheat farmers may select treatments to protect against diseases such as smuts, rusts, pythium and other pathogens. They also may want protection against green bugs, wireworms, aphids (carriers of barley yellow dwarf virus) and Hessian fly.
“An early, vigorous stand means better yield potential,” he said.
Farmers have several products available for wheat and grain sorghum. “Product choice may depend on the seed company,” Long said.
“All cotton seed comes with a fungicide as a base treatment. More options are available for insects, nematodes and other pests.”
Long said seed treatment technology has evolved significantly in the last half-century.
“We had fungicide only 25 to 50 years ago,” he said. “They used older chemistry and low technology.”
The technology improved 10 to 25 years ago with fungicides, insecticides and newer chemicals, improved formulations and more products available.
“Today, we have fungicides, insecticides and nematicides. We can develop prescription treatments with much improved formulations.”
He said newer seed treatments adhere to the seed wall but do not harm the seed, or impair moisture flow. “Seed treatments add value.”
He said the bottom line for growers is whether seed treatments provide a return on the investment.