Seed Treatment Options Become More Important

Two reasons: What they can do, what they cost.

Published on: Feb 28, 2011

When you buy almost any appliance or item that costs $50 or more these days, one of the first questions you get at the check-out counter is if you want to buy the extended warranty plan. In some ways, the seed treatment offerings today are like that. For years you bought seed corn treated with basic fungicides to protect it in the soil.  But today there's a whole ala carte list of treatments you can choose from, depending upon who you buy from and how they're set up to treat seed corn. Do you need the extra protection?

This breaks into two parts—what do you need these extra treatments to do for you, and will they be cost effective?

First, consider Votivo, the newest treatment, designed to help control corn nematodes. It's a problem that has lurked in the background for years. Most people don't know if they really have nematode issues or not, and if they do, if they're at economic levels. That's because they haven't tested for corn nematodes, which is done from soil tests from the field in a lab, because they haven't suspected a problem. This is a whole different animal than the soybean cyst nematode.

If you're playing the odds, you're likely to see more response on lighter soils, especially sandy soils. But it's one of those you might want to test in replicated strip trials. Comparing one side of the field that got the treatment to one side that didn't won't cut it- there are too many other variables involved.

Then there are the seed insecticide options. Poncho 250 or Cruiser at a low dose have helped on secondary pests, but even that dose may not always stop secondary pests, especially if there is heavy insect pressure. If you're getting Votivo, you also get Poncho 500 as part of the agreement worked out between companies on how the seed treatments would be used. That's a mid-level of seed insecticide.

Then there's the high dose, such as Poncho 1250. It's designed to control rootworms, and research by universities indicates that it does under low to moderate infestations. However, under heavy pressure, control falls off compared to either built-in GMO protection or soil-applied insecticides at planting time.

Can you afford these treatments? Or can you afford not to use them? Talk to your seedsman and get exact costs for each product. Weigh the cost against what insect and disease risks you expect. Then decide if it's an insurance plan that makes sense for you.