How to get money’s worth when picking bean seed treatment

Ordering soybean seed these days is somewhat like buying a new pickup truck. You’ve got to do more than just specify the variety. Do you want your soybeans treated? If so, what do you want them treated with? Do you want a company’s deluxe treatment option?

How you answer these questions will determine what you pay for seed. For example, suppose you could buy Roundup Ready seed without treatment at $45 per bag. Treated with fungicide only, it’s $51 per bag. Treated with both a fungicide and insecticide, it’s about $60 per bag. What’s the best deal?

“Look at potential return on investment,” says Jeff Nagel, a certified crop adviser and agronomist for Ceres Solutions in west-central Indiana. “Assume a seeding rate of 168,000 seeds per acre and 140,000 seeds per unit. It would take 1.2 units to plant an acre.”

So the cost per acre would be $54 (untreated), $61.20 (low-cost treatment) and $72 (deluxe treatment). At $9 per bushel for soybeans, fungicide-treated seed would need to yield 0.8 bushel per acre more than untreated seed. The seed treated with both fungicide and insecticide would need to yield 2.0 bushels per acre more than the untreated seed.

Key Points

• Calculate how much return on investment you need before buying seed treatments.

• It’s hard to put a dollar value on what eliminating replanting might be worth.

• Take time to conduct test plots to see if seed treatments return an investment.

Expect benefits

“Fungicide-treated seed usually leads to better stands,” Nagel says. “In many cases, seeding rates can be lowered to offset some treatment costs. Perhaps one of the most overlooked values of fungicide seed treatment is if it saves a potential replant situation. The one thing we can never recover is the calendar. In most years, we see a yield advantage to more timely-planted soybeans.”

Adding an insecticide can prove beneficial if early-season insects are potential concerns, Nagel adds. Two common pests include bean leaf beetle and seed corn maggots. Seed-treatment insecticides can also help against early-season aphids, but they’re usually not a problem in Indiana until mid- to late July, he adds.

Bottom line

Boil it all down and what you need to know is if you can expect to get more than 0.8 to 2.0 bushels per acre, respectively, to pay for using a seed treatment. How do you know if you’re getting your money’s worth?

“Prove it, prove it, prove it,” Greg Kneubuhler insists. He’s a crop consultant and also a certified crop adviser. Kneubuhler operates G & K Concepts Inc. in northeastern Indiana.

“That’s our approach to any product,” he says. “If you don’t evaluate how something performs on your own farm, you can’t make good decisions.”

With GPS technology today, Kneubuhler notes he’s always collecting data on the move. He can do it without adding extra time. “Put out treated and untreated seed side by side and evaluate data after harvest when you have time,” he concludes.

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QUICK START: Some seed companies, such as Beck’s Hybrids, Atlanta, Ind., have put proprietary seed treatments to the test in demonstration plots for more than a decade. More companies are pushing their own proprietary seed treatments this year.

This article published in the January, 2010 edition of INDIANA PRAIRIE FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2010.