Soybean Seed Treatment Catches on in Northern Indiana

Local supplier expands and is ready to expand again.

Published on: Jul 6, 2007

More seed companies offer seed treatments these days. They basically break down into fungicides, insecticides, and inoculants. Agronomists note that you may have to quiz your seed supplier carefully to know exactly what you're getting since some use their own trademark names for seed treatments.

The insecticide seed treatment for soybeans is a fairly recent development. So far, it showed more yield pop in the trial years before it went commercial. But those seasons also featured wetter springs, with perhaps more bean lead betel pressure. The insecticide included is usually the active ingredient in Cruiser. Ask to be sure. Some companies strictly market Cruiser Max as a seed treatment. This mix also contains fungicides.

Gabe Ayres, one of the managers of Clunette Elevator in Clunette, in Kosciusko County, says they began treating their own seed for customers five years ago. "It started because a guy or two got caught with treated beans, then it got wet, and they wanted to exchange them for earlier beans but couldn't," he notes. "Most companies have a no return policy on treated soybeans."

Starting out as a service to give customers more flexibility, the operation grew as more farmers saw the value of seed treatments. This year, in an updated facility, Ayres and his wife, Jessica, who handles seed treatment in this family, full-service, elevator and supply business, treated 28,000 units of soybeans. That's striking, especially considering they only sold about 20,000 bags of soybean seed as a business.

"We will treat anyone's seed if the farmer wants treatment on it," he explains. "We can add a fungicide, and insecticide, an inoculant, or all three. We have had people bring in already–coated seed with another company's proprietary seed treatment, then had us add inoculant."

Both Ohio State University and Purdue University studies over the years have shown about a 1-1.5 bushel per acre advantage for inoculated seed, especially with newer , modern USDA strains of rhizobium bacteria. But that varies from little response in some years to 2-4 bushels per acre in other years. Similar results have been noted for the fungicide and insecticide treatments.

Anecdotally, Ayres points to one example this spring where the insecticide- coating was doing its job. "Our scout saw patches of chewed-up beans, and determined it was bean leaf beetle. But most of the field was OK, and even a few bean sin the affected area were OK," he recalls.

"We visited with the farmer, and suddenly, he remembered the damaged area was where he dumped in an untreated variety. It was so striking that we have pictures of damaged and perfect plants side-by-side, as the treated beans began to mix in with the untreated beans as they fed through the drill. He simply dumped the treated seed in on top."

Whether it makes a yield difference this fall is another matter. But Ayres says it definitely shows that the seed treatments work.