Farmers can plan crop rotations several years in advance in order to maximize their farm’s economic potential while minimizing the risk of introducing resistant weeds and disease pathogens. But within that crop rotation, growers often take a ‘wait and see’ approach before making a final planting decision. Considering factors such as market prices, disease risk and weather patterns, growers can substitute their crop for a different option at the last minute and still protect their seed from day one.
“Versatility is not always talked about when it comes to a seed treatment, but it can be one of its greatest strengths,” says Nick Petruic, SeedGrowth Specialist with Bayer Canada. “After a particularly challenging growing season in 2016, some growers were changing around what they planned to seed until the day before it went into the ground, based on both weather outlook and commodity prices.”
In early spring 2017, wheat prices rallied and some growers who planned to seed to oats changed to spring wheat, knowing that it would still fit into their rotation. But with the high levels of disease inoculum in the soil after a wet summer the previous year, they also wanted to make sure their seed was treated to help mitigate disease risk.
“Having a seed treatment that can be applied to different crops is particularly advantageous for those who wait and watch as long as they can,” says Petruic. “They can call up a seed grower in their network and change their seed order, and then they apply the seed treatment they already have in inventory prior to seeding.”
A time to treat
A flexible seed treatment can also be a benefit for commercial seed treaters as their customers alter their cropping plan in spring. If they have a flexible product on hand they can treat different crops based on their customers’ immediate needs. However, this approach only works for seed treated in the spring.
“I have customers who start treating as soon as the harvested seed is cleaned, and store that seed over the winter so it’s ready in the spring,” says Petruic. “This is also a sensible option as there is no risk of the product degrading — seed treatments won’t break down in the cold. However, one of the potential drawbacks of a fall application is the cooler weather requires more drying time.”
If fall treating, growers need to be married to what they are going to seed which can be risky economically so far in advance of the next growing season. The seed also needs to be properly loaded and stored, with augers carefully cleaned to ensure there is no treatment residue.
If waiting until spring, treating requires more time and resources as seed is usually treated immediately before seeding when manpower is short as multiple field operations are occuring. Depending on the weather, seed treatments can be applied only a few hours before loading the drill to allow the product to dry. If it is cool and humid, waiting until the coating is dry is a critical step. “In my experience, it’s worth waiting a few hours to let the seed dry,” says Petruic. “Otherwise you can get bridging and it won’t move through the equipment properly.”
Choosing a flexible option
There are effective seed treatment options that can be used on a variety of cereal crops.
“Raxil PRO seed treatment uses the same rate across all cereal crops, making it simple for the operator to use,” says Petruic. “You are not giving up anything if you decide to switch up your cereal cropping choice at the last minute. It will do a great job on a wide variety of crops covering all major diseases that threaten Canadian cereals.”
Raxil PRO’s micro-dispersion formulation is very fluid, so it is easy to apply even if during cold weather. It flows easily over the seed for an even result which is critical for a seed treatment’s success. Unlike older, thicker formulations, coverage from Raxil PRO can be consistently applied across all seed toprotect the seed.
“Also, if wireworms are an issue in your area, you can add in Stress Shield to keep insects from damaging your crop in its most vulnerable stage,” says Petruic. “If you decide you need an insecticide you just pour them together and they are ready to go. Adding Stress Shield will not change the viscosity of the product so it can be applied in the same manner as Raxil PRO alone. If you don’t have insect issues, you don’t need to include it in your seed treatment application which is another way Raxil PRO offers flexibility to the grower.”
When farmers decide which seed treatment to use they generally look at the economics, the agronomics and the formulation. Growers can choose to have soil tests and a fungal scan done on the seed to determine which seed treatment is the best choice in their field this year, and to also help identify which crop is less likely to be impacted by the pathogens in the soil. Agronomists can help determine which product is best for various farms and their disease profile, and also help with crop selection.
“I know farmers who spend days working out their crop plan over the winter months,” says Petruic. “They know what they want out of their fields in any given year and I would suggest they do some contingency planning change as spring approaches. Understanding the available seed treatment products and their agronomics will help you decide how flexible you can be when choosing what crops might fit your farm come spring.”