Seed World

Seed Treatment Need-to-Knows to Give Soybeans a Head Start

Agricultural soy plantation on sunny day - Green growing soybeans plant against sunlight

In the upper Midwest, late frost, snow and other winter conditions push planting season to mere weeks. This short window means farmers need to get more done, faster and don’t have time to redo work in the form of replant.

Getting plants off to a strong start the first time is critical and having the right tools in place makes it easy.

“Plant health is the No. 1 thing we try to keep up,” says Jason Klein, corn and soybean farmer in central North Dakota. “We have several different pests we’re trying to protect the crop from.”

Seed treatment is an important part of Klein’s decision matrix every year. If the seed doesn’t get the right start in the early season, whether from dampening off or insect attacks, it won’t yield at the end of the season.

Why Seed Treatment?

Unlike corn and certain other crops, soybean growers have total control of what seed treatment is applied to the legume. Instead of upstream treatment at a packaging facility, most soybeans are treated at the retail or even farm-level.

This means, not only can they select the package they want, but they can also add other products that fit the unique needs of their fields and environment.

“It seems like every year seed treatments are getting more and more important,” Klein says. “All you have to do is lose one field and then you learn that the treatment pays for itself quickly.”

Seed is one of the biggest input expenses for farmers every year, and protecting that seed from early season insect, disease and weed pests is critical. Seed treatment is an easy-to-use tool to protect crops from insects and disease, and even helps encourage early-season vigor to make the crop more competitive against weeds.

Early Season Vigor

Klein recently tried a new seed treatment additive, STEPUP 2.0 by Wilbur-Ellis Agribusiness, as the nutritional supplement offered a boost in the early season.

“It was something you had to kind of prepare for—the plants come out of the ground really quick,” he explains. “Normally, I plant, roll the field and come back with my pre-emergent herbicide. By the time two days passed, the plants were already emerging.”

It’s a similar story for Philip Moore, who treats seed for a large number of farmers at Didier Ag Center. He says he’s seeing healthy plants emerging at or before the 72-hour mark with STEPUP 2.0.

“About 40% of our growers are using STEPUP 2.0,” Moore says. “It’s easy to add it to any other fungicide or insecticide and we haven’t seen any mixing issues like bridging.”

Because it helps encourage plants to emerge faster, there are a few factors to consider:

  • Do you have a pre-emergent herbicide already applied or will you be able to within 48-hours?
  • If the crop emerges before you apply a herbicide, do you have a back-up plan or safe herbicides to apply to the seedlings?
  • How does early emergence potentially impact post herbicide application timing?
  • Are other mid- to late-season pests going to be more attracted to your fields if it was the first to emerge? Do you have a management plan in place?
  • Do you have insecticides and fungicides in the seed treatment mix to protect the early-emerging seedling?
  • Does the field have a history of early-season diseases?
  • Are cutworms prevalent in your area and do you have a defensive plan in place?

STEPUP 2.0 utilizes proteins, nutrients and amino acids to help speed up germination. Wilbur Ellis has documented a 1.5 bu. advantage to using STEPUP 2.0, or a more-than $20 per acre potential return on investment.