By Darren Hefty

Which seed treatments are worth the investment?
How and when should you apply them? 


Whether you use Syngenta, Bayer, Monsanto, Valent, BASF, or some other company’s seed treatment fungicides, we expect them all to perform adequately.  Are there some slight differences?  Sure.  Here’s the problem.  No one can tell you if seed/seedling diseases will be a big problem from one year to the next.  They certainly can’t guarantee which particular disease will be the issue.  One year, you will gain 5 bushels using a fungicide.  The next year, it’s only a half bushel.  The important thing is to look at the average, which is usually pretty good on most farms.


All the major seed treatments use an insecticide from the neonicotinoid family: Poncho, Gaucho, Cruiser.  They all work pretty well on early season bugs, such as bean leaf beetles.  They’re also all pretty good on seed-attacking insects.  The difference between the products is what the re-spray programs are.  Some companies offer up to two free re-sprays if necessary for almost any insect other than spider mites.  Others offer no re-spray or only one.  While bugs aren’t always a problem, the added investment in an insecticide isn’t much, and the gains are often very good.


Let’s face it.  A bunch of biological products in the past were nothing more than snake oil.  Times have changed.  Oh, there are still some snake oils out there.  However, the major chemical manufacturers have invested tens of millions of dollars in biological companies because they see it as a promising industry going forward with a number of good and proven products today.  We’ll use two or more of these products again this year and will experiment with a couple more.  Inoculants have gotten better and better.  Use a good quality inoculant like ROOTastic.  QuickRoots is a combination of beneficial bacteria and fungi that we use in soybeans and other crops.  We also get many questions about Bio-Forge every year.  If you’re not set up for in-furrow application, another good way to use Bio-Forge is the ST (seed treatment) version.  We expect to gain 3 bushels or more by adding biologicals to our soybean seed.


When’s the best time to apply seed treatments?  While the fungicide and insecticide products can be applied early with no loss of their power, the same cannot be said of inoculant.  You’ll get the most bang for your buck applying inoculants like ROOTastic just before planting regardless of labels that will tell you 30 or even 45 days pre-plant is fine.

Will seed get too sticky if I use fungicide, insecticide, inoculant, and a biological product?  Depending on weather conditions, chances are seed could get pretty sticky when using multiple seed treatments.  Seed facilities can add drying agents to the seed treatment to help reduce the problem.  One thing we do on our farm is apply the Inovate or Acceleron treatment as a liquid and put the biological like ROOTastic on as a dry in the planter box.  If you use liquid treatments, the best practice is to give them time to dry and run them through a bristle auger to help break up any clumps.

What kind of Return on Investment do you expect from seed treatments?  If soybeans were $12 per bushel and your total seed  treatment investment was $15 per acre, it would only take a gain of 1.25 bushels per acre to be in the black.  We would expect to average an increase of at least 3 to 5 bushels per acre doing this on our farm, which would equate to a 140% to 300% Net ROI.  Check out for more calculations of ROI.