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If you’d spent decades conducting seed-treatment experiments like researchers Ray Knake and Tristan Mueller have, you might see seed treatments in a new light forever. You’d no more want to miss insuring early seedling health than you’d skip your children’s immunizations.
Seed treatment is all about reducing risk, especially in the first 72 hours of a plant’s life. And farmer use is proof. Aided by newer systemic fungicides and insecticides, their global sales more than tripled from $700 million in 1997 to $2.25 billion in 2010, and they’re estimated to reach $3.4 billion in 2016.
High yields begin with a uniform, healthy plant stand. “You can help this with protective seed treatments,” says seed-treatment expert Ray Knake, Ray Knake Consulting, who has more than 40 years in the business.
Earlier planting dates, reduced tillage and a compressed planting season have driven the seed-treatment sales boom, he says. “Maximum yield potential begins with a uniform, healthy, optimal stand. But wet, cold soils harm seeds and seedlings, especially during their first 72 hours, he says.
“If everything’s ideal, seed treatments don’t bring a lot to the table. But you see the difference in times of stress, with cold, wet conditions,” Knake says. “In 2013, we saw it in side-by-side field comparisons. There’s no rescue treatment available for below-ground pest control after planting with saturated soils and sudden soil-temperature drops.”
And while crop residues protect the soil, they can result in colder soils, Knake adds.
Higher input and seed costs almost mandate that you protect seeds and young seedlings, Knake says.