If seeds could talk, they’d probably tell you they agree with Mike Tyson when he said ‘everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth’. Every seed has a plan – a plan to push roots down, send shoot up and yield a bumper crop. That plan is the seed’s genetic yield potential. But a seed hardly actualizes its plan. As soon as you put that seed in the ground, it gets…well, sort of punched in the mouth by a host of soil and environmental conditions. That is why protecting your seeds is definitely one of the best decisions you’d make early in the season.
The International Seed Federation describes seed treatment as the ‘biological, physical and chemical agents and techniques applied to seed to provide protection and improve the establishment of healthy crops’. The practice of seed treatment is very old. One of the earliest references is around 470 B.C. when Pliny proposed that seeds be soaked in wine plus a mixture of bruised cypress leaves to protect them from wheat mildew. I imagine it must have been a sweet proposition (for the treater), but these early methods were crude and coverage was poor. Today, modern seed treatment facilities use sophisticated and precise equipment to coat seeds with a host of active ingredients. Seed treatments can include protectants, nutrients and biologicals.
Protectants (such as pesticides, fungicides, insecticides, and predator deterrents) are designed to guard seeds from predation and infection by pathogens. Applying these products directly to the seed is much more efficient and effective than broadcasting crop protection products. Moreover, using protectants in seed treatments is an environmentally more friendly way of using pesticides because the amounts used are very small. Nutrient amendments used in seed treatment have mainly focused on adding micronutrients, such as zinc, boron, manganese, copper, and molybdenum – important nutrients which can easily become deficient because they are often neglected in many fertilizer programs. Treatment with biologicals can deliver natural compounds or microorganisms which proliferate on the seeds, transfer to the root, protect against soil-borne pathogens, and enhance uptake of nutrients. They can also stimulate plants’ natural biological processes to help them cope with abiotic stresses such as cold, heat, drought and salinity.
Studies evaluating seed treatments have shown positive effect on germination, growth, and yield but it is important to use the right product and technique to achieve full coverage when treating seeds. Incomplete coverage will leave some of the crop unprotected, and reduce the effectiveness of the process.
The full potential of crops lies in the seed. Giving a seed every chance to reach that potential starts with a good seed treatment. Be sure to talk to your local SynergyAG rep about the right option for your needs.
-Ikenna Mbakwe, PhD, PAg
Head of Research