Josh Kelley

Josh Kelley, Syngenta Seed Treatments product lead

Unusual weather and improved technology are leading to an increase in seed treatments for cereal crops.

Seed treatments can help develop a vigorous plant that can better withstand rainfall or snow events – as well as insects or disease pressure.

There’s an investment in seed treatments, but farmers are seeing the success of the input for soybeans and are now wanting that protection for cereal crops as well.

“I think if growers see benefits in other crops, I think there is enough data there to show that a seed treatment in cereals provides – more often than not – an adequate return on their investment,” said Josh Kelley, Syngenta Seed Treatments product lead.

With poor commodity prices recently, it has been challenging for wheat and barley growers to take on the added cost of a seed treatment. However, some cereal farmers have increased their use of seed treatments and other inputs with hopes of growing high quality/quantity crops, said Kelley.

In some regions of the U.S., insects are hindering production and growers are willing to put a fungicide/insecticide premix formulation on their seed to protect it.

“Across parts of Minnesota and North Dakota you do run into some wireworm pressure. There are producers who are realizing the negative effects of wireworms – they are adopting seed treatments,” he said.

Wireworms are also an issue in Montana, where fungicide and insecticide seed treatments are recommended, he added.

He pointed to the Syngenta seed treatment product, CruiserMaxx Vibrance Cereals, that safeguards wheat and barley – young seedlings and roots – from seedborne and soil borne diseases, as well as insects. The products suppress wireworms and aphids.

“Our CruiserMaxx Vibrance Cereals products as well as Vibrance Extreme are registered for spring wheat, winter wheat, and durum cereal types,” he said.

Seed treatment use is split about down the middle between fall and spring planted seed.

Seed treatment selection can vary based on disease spectrum, with many fields having multiple pathogens present.

In cooler, wetter environments, which favors Pythium species, a product like Apron XL may work well to protect the newly germinated plants, he said. In warmer, drier environments – which typically favor Rhizoctonia and Fusarium species, products like Vibrance and Maxim 4FS have excellent activity.

“Usually it won’t be just one disease in the field – there will typically be a combination of pathogens present and with a product like CruiserMaxx Vibrance Cereals, you’ve got multiple active ingredients that provide excellent protection against the major economically important cereal diseases,” he said.

Syngenta spent time last summer, and will continue to spend time this winter, discussing proper seed treatment applications.

In the northern regions of the U.S., growers have a number of options for application of seed treatments. If a grower is using Certified seed, that may come through a seed dealer that is treating it themselves, and selling the grower treated seed. The grower may also get it from the retailer, who sells the seed, and treats it at the retail location. Some growers may prefer to purchase or use untreated seed, and apply a seed treatment themselves on the farm.

“For cereals, we’ll see a lot of grower-applied, retail-applied or seed associate applied, so it really depends on how that operation is set up,” he said.

If a grower is treating their own seed, Kelley strongly encourages growers to use the very best quality seed.

“If you’re going to invest the money in a premium seed treatment, you want to make sure that each seed gets the right amount of active ingredient on the seed,” he said. “Otherwise, the seed is not getting that protection. You also want to make sure it stays on the seed.”

Syngenta conducts testing at their Seed Care Institute in Stanton, Minn., on various seed treatment products. They attribute Syngenta’s formulations as helping the seed treatment adhere to the seed.

Keeping a careful schedule of potential planting dates and the correct times to apply seed treatments are very important steps growers can take to increase yield. If the spring wheat is going in late and the soybeans are going in early, growers need to have a plan on how to get their seed treatments completed in a timely fashion.

“You have to be pretty efficient and plan ahead to ensure you’ve got the product to actually put on the seed, as well as the time and people to run the applicator,” Kelley concluded.

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