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Soybean seed care goes beyond the surface

Control of early-season soybean diseases, at the surface, can seem very simplistic. Just glancing at the seed to see if its beige color has been traded for a flashier red, green, blue or pink may be all a grower needs to be assured of protection against soybean diseases.

Truth is, control is much more complex than that.

At one time, regardless of the seed brand, it was likely that the treatment was the same—or at least very similar. Now, the number of different seed treatments is almost as diverse as the number of brands of seed on the market. This is both a blessing and a curse. With interest in seed treatment has come innovation and new products but also deception. This is particularly true with tightened margins. Many seed dealers are offering a cheaper option that may have active ingredients that do not control the total spectrum of soybean diseases, or rates have been reduced to ineffective levels.

Often these changes are dictated by a seed company, and an ingredient change may have been made while the product name remained the same. There are times when a seed company will not release the rates of active ingredients a seed treatment product contains. Though a seed treatment product label must state the concentration of active ingredients, that does not mean it is a legal requirement on the seed tag. The best thing growers can do to protect themselves is to make sure to ask questions about what treatment is being applied to the seed.

Among the first questions to ask a seed provider is to produce a label for the seed treatment. Second, confirm the rate of application. Knowing the product ingredients and rate is of utmost importance to determine if the product actually provides sufficient control of the four main early-season soybean diseases: phytopthora, pythium, rhizoctonia and fusarium. These economically damaging diseases can kill and rot seeds before germination or cause seedling death. Many products available today may not contain the diversity of ingredients needed for adequate control of all four.

At other times, particularly when it comes to phytopthora, product use rates may not be adequate for disease control. In addition to learning about the effectiveness of control for the four main seedling diseases, the product label and rate will give insight about whether the treatment contains an insecticide or whether it may provide control of other diseases such as soybean cyst nematode or sudden death syndrome. SCN and SDS are two of the most damaging pathogens to soybean production. Often, control of these two soil-borne diseases will come from a second product tank-mixed at the dealer’s treater.

Thankfully most of the changes in the seed care industry have been advancements, but growers need to remain wary of deceptive marketing and cut rates in the name of cost cutting. Seed care is no different than weed control. The most expensive application is the one that is ineffective. A good place to start when seeking information is your MFA agronomy specialist, who can help ensure your seed-care plan is successful for your operation.

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