Seed World

Lessons Learned from Football

By: Ryan Tichich, Bayer Crop Science’s Agronomic Systems Lead for North America

I’m a huge fan of football at all levels. While it can be challenging to find the time, I really enjoy spending a couple hours each weekend watching my favorite teams annihilate their competition. I’m also Bayer Crop Science’s Agronomic Systems lead for corn in North America. In practical terms, that means I help growers understand how the various parts that make up high potential corn — the traits, genetics, treatments and agronomic recommendations — work together in a holistic system to deliver yield. Growers and, yes, even my colleagues usually want to talk about the ‘superstars’ in the system: new developments in genetics and traits to further push yield. But here’s what I know: even a championship-winning MVP quarterback wouldn’t throw a single touchdown without an effective offensive line providing protection. Are you giving your corn seed’s offensive line the credit it deserves?

Seed companies invest major time and dollars into developing traits and genetics: potential which can only be unlocked when seed goes into the ground. Unfortunately, early season growing conditions are often harsh. Cold temperatures, excessive moisture, various diseases and insects all challenge emerging seedlings long before their genetics or traits have a chance to contribute.

While you can’t make your yield in the early season, you can certainly lose it. Unlike more flexible crops like soybeans or canola that can at partially compensate for inconsistent emergence, corn plants that lag behind others early in the season typically won’t ever catch up. They may produce a small ear or no ear at all and those plants effectively become resource-consuming weeds.

Luckily, farmers have seed treatments on their side. For the past 50ish years, seed treatments have been integrated into every bag of corn seed sold. Our goal is to help growers achieve uniform, consistent, vigorous corn stands thanks to an agronomically complete, pre-applied seed treatment package of targeted fungicides, insecticides, nematicides and biologicals. We’ve been so successful for so long that corn seed treatment today doesn’t get the attention or appreciation it deserves, but its impact can’t be overstated.

Seed treatments aren’t just good for plants. They’re a whole lot easier for farmers, reducing the need to handle and apply early and mid-season in-furrow and foliar crop protection products. They’re also a much better option for the environment, since the early timing and targeted application directly to the seed means less product required, minimizing non-target exposure and building a more resilient stand from the start.

We’re constantly striving to improve our seed treatments’ active ingredients and formulations, integrating multiple modes of action and optimizing rates for enhanced control. Higher rates of fungicide can provide greater protection of yield in tough environments, which is why we introduced our Enhanced Disease Control (EDC) formulations a handful of years ago.

Surveys show farmers prioritize strong, consistent emergence over every other seed attribute. It’s time we all give seed treatment more credit for helping make that happen.