Seed Sentries

Comprehensive seed treatments help boost yield potential by protecting high-tech traits from pests and diseases.
Sheila Hebenstreit and Marc Oostenink
Sheila Hebenstreit, field sales agronomist with Farmers Cooperative Company and Syngenta Sales Representative Marc Oostenink (right).
Growers only have one chance to give their valuable crops the best start possible. That's why Sheila Hebenstreit, a field sales agronomist with Farmers Cooperative Company in Gowrie, Iowa, is such a big believer in seed treatments.

"I consider seed treatments to be a best-management practice," says Hebenstreit. "They contribute to healthier plants, which give growers the best opportunity for higher production."

Hebenstreit is also an advocate for early soybean planting, which has the potential benefit of higher yields. "I know the weather doesn't always cooperate, especially if it's wet and cool. That's why I don't like to see any soybean seed leave our facility without at least a fungicide treatment."

The market continues to grow for seed treatments, which provide a safer, sustainable, targeted way to deliver crop protection. Five years ago, approximately 50 percent of the U.S. soybean crop was treated, notes Tim Kroenke, head of Seedcare for Syngenta. By 2013, around 80 percent of U.S. growers reported treating their soybeans with an insecticide/fungicide seed treatment. "We see more room for growth," adds Kroenke, who believes the overall percentage of treated soybeans could rise by more than 10 percentage points in the near future.

As seed prices increase and new trait technologies promise higher yields and better agronomic performance of seeds, more resellers are prescribing seed treatments and more growers are relying on them to protect their valuable investments. A recent survey from CropLife America notes that seed treatments helped contribute to nearly $80 billion worth of value for American corn growers in 2011, through increased protection and greater crop yields. In addition, modern seed hybrids combined with effective seed treatments can provide a nearly 100 percent crop stand, according to the same survey. That's why most seed companies now treat all corn hybrids with a comprehensive package of seed treatment products to ensure top performance under variable growing conditions.

"There's no question that today's seed treatments are helping America's growers achieve greater yields and healthier crops, while reducing potential risks to the environment," says Andy LaVigne, CEO/president of the American Seed Trade Association.

The Evolution of Seedcare

As growers increasingly invest in seed treatments, especially for soybeans and cereal crops, more retailers continue to add seed treatment equipment to their operations. This allows them to tailor seed treatments to their growers' unique needs, Kroenke says. This flexibility has become more important as seed treatments have become more intensive, evolving from fungicides only to fungicide/insecticide combinations and fungicide/insecticide/nematicide treatments that help protect growers' profit potential.

"As Syngenta develops new seed treatments, it's important that we deliver solutions that allow growers to secure a valuable return on their seed treatment investment," Kroenke says.

"We work hard to develop innovative, convenient seed treatment solutions to get crops off to a strong, healthy start."

Dana Stubbendeck
University research studies have shown the value of Syngenta seed treatments. Shawn Conley, Ph.D., a University of Wisconsin Extension soybean and wheat specialist, and his colleagues put Syngenta soybean seed treatments to the test in 2012 and 2013. They researched nine Wisconsin locations planted in 15-inch rows within the first three weeks of May. "Our studies found differences in yield, profitability and economic risk due to seed treatment and seeding rate," Conley says.

Researchers discovered that reducing seeding rates when using no seed treatment or a fungicide-only seed treatment may be too risky and provided minimal profit gains. In contrast, the study showed that CruiserMaxx® Beans, a fungicide/insecticide seed treatment combination from Syngenta, reduced economic risk and increased profits across an array of environments, seeding rates (80,000 to 140,000 seeds/acre) and grain sale prices ($9/bushel and $12/bushel).

"We work hard to develop innovative, convenient seed treatment solutions to get crops off to a strong, healthy start," says Dana Stubbendeck, a Seedcare key account lead for Syngenta.

Providing New Solutions

Several of these new solutions have transformed the seed treatment market, Stubbendeck says.

  • Vibrance® seed-applied fungicide defends roots against a wide range of pathogens, including devastating soilborne diseases like Rhizoctonia root rot, which is the No. 2 soybean disease behind Pythium. "Rhizoctonia doesn't normally kill the plant but damages tiny root hairs," Stubbendeck says. "This damage hinders the plant's ability to take up water and nutrients. Vibrance protects roots to enhance emergence and plant growth, resulting in more consistent and higher yields."
  • Avicta® Complete Corn nematicide/insecticide/fungicide seed treatment offers triple protection against nematodes as well as early-season insects and diseases. "This seed treatment combination provides comprehensive early-season protection up to V5 or V6, which sets the crop up for higher yield potential since much of it is determined early," Stubbendeck says. In 2015, Syngenta will add Vibrance to the Avicta Complete Corn package and will treat all new U.S. corn seed production with this powerful combination.
  • Clariva™ Complete Beans is a nematicide/insecticide/fungicide seed treatment combination of separately registered products that protects soybeans against soybean cyst nematodes (SCN), all the major early-season insects, as well as diseases, such as Rhizoctonia, Fusarium, Pythium, and Phytophthora. It includes a revolutionary nematicide that offers season-long protection against SCN, the No. 1 robber of soybean yields in many areas. In fields with moderate-to-high SCN pressure, Clariva Complete Beans consistently improved yields by an average of 4.1 percent, compared with an insecticide/fungicide check.
This is good news for Hebenstreit, who considers SCN to be one of the biggest yield robbers in her area. "Clariva Complete Beans is a perfect fit for growers who face SCN challenges but want to keep soybeans in their rotation," she says.

Hebenstreit also appreciates the technical support she receives from the Syngenta team, including Marc Oostenink, her local sales representative. "We will continue to offer innovative solutions and are committed to supporting our retailers," says Oostenink, who is based in central Iowa.

This support will include new Seedcare solutions, Stubbendeck says. "Syngenta is always on the cutting edge. We've focused on seed treatments for 35 years and will continue to develop the most robust seed treatments on the market to help maximize yields."