Penny Wise or Pound Foolish?

Last month I attended the Commodity Classic (a trade show and Convention for the countries corn, soybean, wheat, and sorghum growers) in New Orleans last month, I have to say I came home a little down in the mouth. Each presenter warned us about the rough times ahead for agriculture. I was cautioned to watch every penny spent in 2016. Even though I didn’t disagree with them, I have to say Igot pretty tired of hearing it. Although the extra inches around my middle don’t help, I am feeling that if I tighten my belt much tighter, I won’t be able to breathe!


Current economics make us consider and reconsider our management and purchasing decisions. Having a few years of farming experience under my rather tight belt, I also know that whenever most folks are being defensive in their operations, opportunities for growth and profit will pop up and I need to be watching for them. Still, there is only so much money to work with, so just where can I cut back and still not affect my opportunities for profit? One thought in the cost cutting thought process this spring is whether to treat soybean seed. Here’s my soap box take on that very question.

Soybean seed treatments such as fungicides, insecticides, protectants and growth promoters can be applied in varying combinations to the seed before it is planted, providing seed and seedling protection while it lies in the cool spring soils or the high residue fields commonly found in this region. Strong, healthy plants help ward off early season insect and disease issues. Increased root growth leads to more root surface area for greater uptake of nutrients. Soybean performance from treated beans can increase as much as 4.5 bushels an acre. We experience environments where Pythium and or Rhizoctonia (root/stem rot diseases) can have a devastating effect without some form of seedling protection.

No till and planting in cool soils (a condition that is typical until mid-June in SD) are both situations that call for treated beans. In South Dakota, since the widespread use of seed treatments began, the need to replant soybeans has diminished significantly – to nearly zero! Treatments make for a healthier, more vigorous plant. Interestingly, many farmers believe insect pressure is gone because they don’t “see” the high incidence of bean leaf beetles that they saw 10 years go. The truth is, those beetles are still around they just don’t like those treated plants as well, so their damage isn’t as visible any more.

In my opinion, in South Dakota, seed treatments are a vital risk management tool. Cutting out seed treatment as a cost reduction strategy is a poor risk management decision. Pay a few dollars up front and reduce the threat that could end up costing 3 to 4 times the investment. The number of service calls I make since the widespread use of seed treatments, is a fraction of what it was before. There is no way to effectively recover from poor emergence. It has to be planted right; you can’t go back in time and fix that.

Although rough times in production agriculture might be ahead I have some good news! Breathe easier – seed treatments for soybeans are available and will protect your considerable investment! We already know that we are going to take a hit on the soybean commodity prices, so don’t also take a hit on the yield by skipping your seed treatment protocol.

Image Credit: John H Kleschinsky

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