Southern Spotlight: Selecting the Right Seed Treatment

James Banahan

James Banahan

Your pickup has doors, wheels, a bed, an engine.  All pickups have doors, wheels, a bed, an engine.  Your seed treatment has a fungicide and an insecticide.  All seed treatments have a fungicide and an insecticide.

You know well though that regardless of the doors, wheels, bed, and engine that pickups share in common, this door is not that door and this engine is certainly not that engine.  You know that a Dodge is not a Toyota is not a Ford.  You might, in fact, feel quite passionately about such differences, being the Ford Man or Chevy Guy you are.

What you may not know as well, but which remains as true, is that regardless of the fungicide and insecticide that seed treatments share in common, this fungicide is not that fungicide and this insecticide is not that insecticide.  These differ between seed treatment products, sometimes very radically and sometimes in ways that will exert great effect in your fields.

Most growers working today generally agree that seed treatments are worthwhile investments.  Most growers working today also don’t generally put much consideration into their seed treatments beyond the decision to purchase one.  We’re most concerned that we have one, rather than that we have the right one.  This article is about concerning yourself with the right one though, because the precisely right seed treatment can so significantly impact the success of your growing season and the soundness of your bottom line.

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Probably the biggest difference between seed treatment products comes from the difference between the fungicides they contain.  Different fungicides have different use rates, which determine how long they stay in your soil, and different water solubility measures, which affect the way that the fungicide interacts with a plant in the soil.  To maximize the value and effectiveness of your seed treatment, it is essential to match the needs of your plants to the actions of the product.  A solid match between these ensures that the seed treatment you purchase does everything you need it to do and ensures that you don’t overpay for bells and whistles that you don’t need.

The friendly folks at your local UFC office can consult with you to help you choose the best product for your needs (in fact, they can even tailor mix a product for you), but ultimately, choosing the right seed treatment depends largely upon the challenges and potential issues that you face in your fields, like poor drainage and disease, weed, and insect pressures.  The right treatment also depends on your crop rotation schedule, planting conditions, soil quality, and your tillage system.

For example, if your field has a history of phytophthora, you would be best served to purchase a seed treatment that protects against the disease, of course.  While more than one fungicide can protect against phytophthora though, not all will last long enough in your soil to actually prevent it, as phytophthora doesn’t take effect on crops until the V3 growing stage.  It is imperative then to purchase a seed treatment with enough residual time to last through V3 so that your investment can actually do the work you need it to do.

Without this consideration, it’s easy to see how a grower could be lured by the low price of a given seed treatment.  Why pay $15 per acre when you can pay $10?  The devil is in the details here: if that $10 treatment lasts only 10 days in a phytophthora-prone field, it will do nothing to address the problem, and phytophthora will flourish anyway.  That $15 treatment that lasts 45 days though?  Well, that one would have survived quite long enough to address the problem you needed it to and sayonara, phytophthora.

In the end of this example, the $10 treatment was $10 wasted, washed away before it added any value to your field.  The $15 treatment, while more expensive, added value though as it survived long enough to defeat the problem at hand and ensure the success of your crop.

We tend to think of seed treatments as warm and fuzzy blankets—they are small insurance policies that make us feel good and secure about the potential of our season.  But as I wrote about last week, price shopping often blinds us to the value (of lack thereof) of a product.  With a little extra attention, you can get a seed treatment that isn’t just a warm and fuzzy blanket, but the warmest, fuzziest blanket of them all.