November 22, 2019

Putting Seed Treatments to the Test

IMG_1465You never know whether sudden death syndrome (SDS) will develop in a given season and affect your soybean yields. When SDS blew up a couple years ago in Manuel Gerber’s fields near West Bend, he wasn’t sure what to do.

“It usually comes on late in the season, and I wasn’t sure how much it was affecting yield,” said Gerber, who farms northeast of town.

He discussed the situation with Dan Stokes, a MaxYield seed solutions specialist. The pair decided that a split application with ILeVO®, a seed treatment designed for SDS that also provides root-zone protection against soybean cyst nematodes (SCN), might be worth a try this spring. They also analyzed the best soybean varieties to plant on Gerber’s acres.

“I like to try new things, so we did half the planter with ILeVO-treated seed and half without,” said Gerber, who also planted the toughest SDS-defense seed genetics as step one.

Gerber felt comfortable with his decision until the emerging soybean cotyledons showed a telltale pinkish/reddish halo. “They looked like they’d been dinged with a chemical, but they came out of it,” he noted. Stokes also reassured him that this halo effect is common at that growth stage with ILeVO.

Throughout the 2015 growing season, it was hard to see much difference between the rows with the treated seeds and those without—until the soybeans started turning color in early September. “The areas with SDS stood out dramatically,” Gerber said. “As the plants started dropping leaves, the whole field was striped like a zebra.”

While the visuals were impressive, Gerber had a bigger question on his mind. How would the treated areas yield? He brought in a weigh wagon late in September to test 20-row strips.

“What blew my mind was that no matter where we took the tests, the areas treated with ILeVO consistently yielded at least 3.5 bushels per acre better than the untreated areas,” Gerber said. “The return on investment was good.”

“We have to prove it to ourselves”
Determining the return on investment is also important to MaxYield, said Stokes, who conducted a number of ILeVO trials in 2015. He and other members of the MaxYield Seed team also tested a variety of other seed treatments, inoculants, insecticides, and fungicides to see which ones offer the most bang for the buck.

“We have a lot of trials out this year and should get some good data,” Stokes said. “Before we recommend a product we want to prove it to ourselves first.”

The team has been evaluating seed treatments to help control SDS, which has cropped up in the area three of the last four years. “Last year the yield monitor dropped about 8 to 10 bushels in spots where SDS occurred,” Stokes said. “We’re trying to figure out if just focusing on SDS for a treatment is worth the cost of treatment.”

Since it occurs late in the season, growers often don’t realize how widespread SDS can be. “From the road you typically can’t see a lot, but when you send up a UAV to take aerial pictures, the situation is clear,” Stokes said. “Clients say, ‘Gosh, I didn’t know my field looked that rough.’”

For Stokes, the bigger issue is how a seed treatment for SDS might also help growers win the battle against SCN. “If it gives us more bushels because it helps with nematodes, that’s what we’re really interested in.”

Keeping ahead of fast-changing technology
That’s why MaxYield continues to conduct trials each year with various seed treatments and inoculants. In 2014, for example, the team studied Clariva® vs. Votivo® trials to assess SCN protection, and chose Votivo because of the favorable results. MaxYield’s seed specialists are also studying whether some products can function as more than just a seed treatment or inoculant.

“Some of these products also help with the fertility,” Stokes said. “This can be important on the high pH ground in our area that contributes to poor nutrient utilization.”

One thing is clear—seed treatment technology continues to change fast. Not only has MaxYield invested in modern, state-of-the-art treaters at West Bend, Garner, and Spencer to provide more accurate coverage on each seed, but the team continues to put the latest seed treatment technology to the test.

“If there’s something that can bump your yield potential, we want to make it available to you,” Stokes said.

Gerber appreciates this support and values MaxYield’s recommendations as he plans ahead for 2016. “I think I’ll pick out a field where we have some disease issues and give some of these newer seed treatments a whirl again,” he said.

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