Where do seed treatments fit in soybeans?
If you want to plant soybeans in a timely fashion to optimize yields, then seed treatments should be part of your management plan. That’s how Jeff Nagel views soybean seed treatments. He’s an agronomist and Certified Crop Adviser with Ceres Solutions, Lafayette.
“The combination of growers planting soybeans earlier, coupled with higher corn residue, higher seed costs and the higher market value of soybeans, plus better seed treatments, has changed the value proposition compared to 10 years ago,” Nagel says.
Fungicides should be a key component of any soybean seed treatment program, Nagel says. Ryan McAllister, a CCA and seed rep for Beck’s Hybrids, Parker City, agrees. “Fungicides increase overall plant health, especially when planting into adverse conditions,” McAllister says.
• A fungicide seed treatment is a must in areas prone to wet soils.
• Inoculants typically pay a return on investment.
• Consider insecticide and nematode seed treatment components as well.
“Many times yield increases occur from a reduction in row skips and better overall health of the plant. This would be more likely on poorly drained soils compared to sandy soils.”
However, McAllister realizes you can get this mix within the same field. Many farmers with that type of land view seed treatments that include a fungicide as insurance that they won’t have to replant, he notes.
McAllister encourages customers to use fungicides at the full rate. In eastern Indiana and Ohio, the most common culprits are phytophora, pythium, rhizoctonia root rot and fusarium.
Nagel adds, “One thing you can never recover, even if you have no seed costs for a replant, is the calendar and timely planting.”
Seed treatments that include an insecticide provide early-season protection against seed corn maggot, bean leaf beetle and other pests, Nagel says. Seed corn maggot can damage soybeans and cut down emergence.
“You can also get help on soybean aphids, but that isn’t usually a concern in many areas,” he adds. “If you plant soybeans in April and early May where emergence could be slow, you will want to consider using an insecticide.”
The more traditional seed treatment is the seed inoculant, Nagel notes. Most inoculants contain newer strains of rhizobia and compounds that enhance early-season nodulation and growth. The idea is to get nodulation under way so rhizobia bacteria can manufacture nitrogen for soybean plants.
“Don’t expect huge yield increases, but these can add small yield additions,” Nagel says. “In most cases it takes less than half a bushel to pay for inoculants. Odds of a return on your investment are high.”
Plots conducted by Ceres Solutions in west-central Indiana confirm a yield increase for inoculants, notes Betsy Bower, also an agronomist and Certified Crop Adviser. They found about a 1-bushel-per-acre advantage. That’s the average Purdue University reports over an 11-year trial.
“At a minimum consider a seed treatment containing a fungicide,” Bower concludes. “At a 1-bushel-per-acre average increase, an inoculant will easily pay for itself, too.
“If early-season insect pests are an issue, you may want to consider investing in seed treatment with insecticide. And if you know you have soybean cyst problems, look for research results for either Avicta or Votivo this winter. Perhaps they will provide additional protection against soy nematodes.”
This article published in the January, 2012 edition of INDIANA PRAIRIE FARMER.