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Who should consider soybean insecticides?

You don’t have to go back very far to when soybean breeders and entomologists were scratching their heads, wondering why soybean seed treated with insecticide produced more. Now it’s becoming an accepted practice. The only flies in the ointment are cost and the fact that the payoff is larger in some years than others.

Key Points

If it’s costing an extra $10 to $12 per acre, push your pencil.

Some seed companies include insecticide at no extra charge — others don’t.

Ask your seed supplier for data justifying cost vs. benefits.

Here’s the question for this month’s Bug Beat panel, supplied by the Indiana Certified Crop Advisers:

The push is on to include insecticides in soybean seed treatments. That really increases the cost, by about double vs. regular fungal seed treatment without insecticide. How do I know which is the best deal?

Jeff Nagel, Ceres Solutions, Lafayette: We’re convinced insecticide seed treatments provide protection against seedcorn maggot, bean leaf beetle and aphids. However, soybean aphids are not usually a concern in west-central Indiana.

If you’re planting soybeans in April and early May where emergence could be slower, consider an insecticide. If you tend to plant in mid to late May anyway, when emergence is more rapid, an insecticide may be of less value.

Danny Greene, Greene Consulting Inc., Franklin: Ask yourself if your current practices cause stand loss. Seedcorn maggot and bean leaf beetle are likely to be more of an issue if you left residue on the surface to help stabilize soils.

Some particular situations where insect protection would be especially needed might be fields where you apply manure in the spring, or where you turn under heavy vegetation.

Making this decision comes down to common sense. If coating soybeans with insecticides at a fee solves a problem you don’t have, don’t pay extra for it. However, if you expect that it might be profitable because of your conditions, consider it.

You might want to plant a few strips of treated seed this year. Scout it after planting. See if you can tell a difference. Then make an informed decision for the 2012 crops.

Also, work with your balance sheet. If trustworthy data suggests strongly that it will pay, use the treatment to add to your income.

Ryan McAllister, Beck’s Hybrids, Parker City: Beck’s includes insecticide treatment in its soybean fungicide coating at no extra cost. Check to see what options your company offers. It not only decreases your risk, but it also decreases Beck’s risk as well. When you offer a 100% replant policy, the addition of seed-treated insecticide is a risk management policy for both you and Beck’s.

Suppose you buy from a company that provides fungicide-coated seed, but charges extra if you want the insecticide? Then you have to weigh options. Weigh the benefit of the additional insecticide and decide if it’s worth it. We can see that soybeans treated with insecticide are healthier. Early-season bean-leaf feeding is virtually non-existent.

If your seed supplier isn’t charging you, it’s extra insurance. If he is, ask your supplier to provide you with data justifying cost vs. benefits.


To treat or not to treat? This producer chose treated seed because he intended to plant early into this high-residue environment.

This article published in the February, 2011 edition of INDIANA PRAIRIE FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2011.