Benefit Of Seed Treatment On Early Planted Soybeans In The Northeast and New England

As spring approaches, many farmers are itching to get out in the fields. It’s been a while since we have experienced an early spring and with the way the weather is playing out, it’s looking as if we might catch a break this year.

Before we jump into the field and start planting, we need to evaluate if our seed is ready to be placed in the ground. When we begin planting earlier than normal, there are some environmental conditions that may not be in our favor. That’s why we need to make sure we have our seed properly protected against the uncontrollable environment.

Seed companies are beginning to emphasize the importance of seed treatment, especially on early planted crops. Many farmers have raised the question of what the actual benefits of seed treatments are and if they really need them. Let’s narrow the focus on to soybean seed treatments and the benefits of having the beans treated.

If you are going to plant your beans early, it is extremely beneficial to protect that seed with a seed treatment so early diseases and pests don’t creep in and begin to take away your yield right out of the gate. Early planted soybeans may not have the best soil conditions to start out with, so giving them protection will ensure you get the most yield potential out of them that you can and eliminate outside stresses.

Depending on what company you choose, there are many different seed treatments that can be applied to soybeans. If you don’t know what is being applied to your beans, ask. All treatments are different and may not protect against everything you need, so it is critical you understand what you are getting out of your seed treatment.

There are numerous different formulations of active ingredients that may comprise a seed treatment. Coverage can range from very specific and narrow banded control, to wide spectrum control of many diseases and insects. For instance, at SEEDWAY, we use Syngenta’s CruiserMaxx® Vibrance on our soybean seed in our Northeast region. This is an insecticide and fungicide treatment that has four active ingredients—tiamethoxam, mefenoxam, fludioxonil, sedaxane. This treatment is marketed to protect against pythium, phytophthora, downy mildew, fusarium, rhizoctonia, sclerotinia, and phomopsis. Not all of these are common early season diseases in our region, and the ones that are won’t always affect your crop. But let’s dive deeper into those that cause early problems in the East.

One of the most common early soybean diseases we see appear is Pythium. Pythium is favored and enhanced by wet soils, and also by cooler soil conditions early in the season. This disease can cause great impact in many different ways. Pythium can cause seed decay, pre-emergence seedling rot, and damping off of the already emerged seedlings.

Unlike pythium that is not field specific, phytophthora is another common disease we see in our soils in the northeast. This disease is typically seen in fields with a history of it in the past. Phytophthora is favored by wet soils, and is seen as the soils begin to warm up but we start getting rain events that leave water saturating the soil due to compaction or poor drainage. Phytophthora can cause seed decay, seedling rot, and damping off of emerged plants. This disease can kill plants at any stage of growth and still may be seen in fields with just a standard low rate of treatment but become more evident with those saturating rain events.

The last two that we commonly see in the early planting stages of soybeans, are fusarium and rhizoctonia, which both have potential to be controlled with treatment. Fusarium root rot along with rhizoctonia root rot are usually favored in well drained, sandy soil conditions.

Seed treatments also can provide control against early season pests. The pests that are protected against vary depending on the seed treatment and insecticide used. Syngenta’s CruiserMaxx Vibrance protects soybean plants against early season injury caused by aphids, bean leaf beetles, grape colaspis, leaf miners, leaf hoppers, Mexican leaf beetles, seed corn maggot, three-cornered alfalfa hopper, thrips, white grubs, and wireworms. We don’t always notice injury from these pests in our region, but being proactive against them to put your crop out ahead of the stresses is the key to success.

Once we begin to see these early season injuries begin to stress the plants, there is very little that we can do. By protecting the seed from early diseases and insects, the overall stand is more likely to have strong vigor and emergence and be more uniform. You will find less need to replant fields and find overall healthier plants and higher yield potentials.

As I mentioned before, just because your seed is treated, doesn’t mean all treated seed is the same. I focused on CruiserMaxx Vibrance, but SEEDWAY also uses Bayer’s Acceleron treatment on our soybeans for our southern division. Both treatments are aimed to protect against the early season stresses mentioned previously, however, the difference is based on region. The more you know about your soybean seed treatment, the more confident you can be that your seed will be protected against early season pressures.

So, to answer the question – “Are soybean seed treatments are really needed?” The answer is yes. If you are going to be planting soybeans early, put that protection plan in place to protect the yield of that plant. The environment throws curveballs at us that we can’t control, but by being proactive and protecting against early onset diseases and pest pressures with seed treatments, we are likely to harvest much better yields in the end. REMEMBER, the exact protection that is warranted varies depending on the seed treatment so be sure to know exactly what you are getting.