When your seed dealer asks you if you want your soybeans treated, it's a loaded question. He may not even know it. Your response should be: Which one of a 100 possible treatments can you apply for me?
Actually, Brian Denning, an agronomist for Stewart Seeds and the AIM program, based at Evansville, found a Website that documented 102 such products, and he's certain it wasn't all-inclusive. It's a field many companies are playing in today, and not only seed companies. Some companies have sprung up to supply biological compounds, inoculants and other types of seed treatment.
Where to start
So where do you start if you want a seed treatment? If you're going to plant early when it's cool and wet, you likely need a fungicide. It can ward off phytophthora root rot, pythium and more.
"Even some people planting double-crop soybeans use fungicide treatments," he says. "Some of these pathogens prefer warm and wet weather. If it's on the wet side and warm, which it usually is after wheat harvest, a fungicide may still be worth the money."
Many people measure whether or not to use a seed treatment based on a potential yield benefit. While Denning agrees that's important, he says there may also be other benefits, such as stand establishment, which sets up the conditions for optimal yields if the weather is right. That can make seed treatments worth it.
You may also want an insecticide in the soybean seed treatment, the agronomist says. They tend to see a high level of benefit from insecticides on soybean seed.
Inoculants may return medium benefits, depending upon if you've had soybeans in the field in the last three to five years. If you haven't, then adding an inoculant will likely pay.
Stewart Seeds treats about 70% of the beans they sell. Many are treated with a combination treatment exclusive to the company, which contains a proprietary ingredient. Many seed companies are now offering complete seed treatment packages. Many contain an exclusive ingredient so that the company can differentiate its treatment from others.