Are Soybean Seed Treatments Worthwhile?

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Farmers are more likely to be pinching pennies this spring and consequently may be questioning whether their soybean seed needs a fungicide seed treatment this planting season.  The answer depends on several factors from weather and planting date to drainage and seed costs.  Soy check-off dollars pay for regional seed-treatment research providing U.S. soybean farmers with local and practical production knowledge to help protect their yields against seedling diseases.

Here are six things soy check-off wants you to know about soybean seed treatments from a regional perspective.

  1. Farmers with poorly drained soils, planting into no-till fields, continuous-soybean or soybean-corn rotations and a history of replanting are the most likely to see the added benefit of using a seed treatment, according to The Ohio State University.
  2. When early planting and cool/wet conditions converge in late April to early May, seed-treatment fungicides are effective according to the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
  3. Using a seed treatment is most beneficial in fields with a history of post-planting problems like minor soil crusting, temporary flooding, soil compaction or poor drainage according to the University of Kentucky.
  4. Using a fungicide treatment on soybean seeds increases the probability of achieving a satisfactory stand and will enhance the early-season vigor of established seedlings according to the Mississippi Soybean Promotion Board.
  5. With the increase in seed cost many farmers don’t want to overplant.  As a result, according to Iowa State University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, some farmers are decreasing their seeding rate and using the money they save on seed treatments instead with good results.
  6. Fungicide seed treatments on soybean seed showed an average yield increase of 2.5 bushels per acre over an eight year period, according to Kansas State University Research & Extension.

Applying seed treatments is a rapidly growing trend.  In fact, the soybean industry estimates that 60-70% of the 2014 soybean seed planted will have a seed treatment.  As recently as 2008 only 30% of soybean seed was treated and only 8% in 1996.

Always remember to separate treated seed and harvested soybeans to protect the integrity of the U.S. soybean supply. This will avoid putting the U.S. soybean industry’s relationship with customers beyond the elevator in jeopardy.

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