Seed Treatments Show Promise

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After spending the initial six years of his first decade in agriculture at Bayer, working to development the On Demand seed treatment application system, Jaco Van Der Westhuizen faced quite the task as seed treatment manager at behemoth retail outlet Crop Production Services (CPS).

“When I took over this role, one of the first tactics we tackled was consolidating seed treatments,” says Van Der Westhuizen. “Last year at CPS we supported over 100 different seed treatment products, and that is just crazy in today’s world. Think about that as far as inventory-wise and training and all of the reporting on the back-end that’s required, it’s easy to see why we had to completely simplify our lineup.”

Jaco’s daunting task illustrates the predicament many ag retailers likely find themselves dealing with on a year-to-year basis: the seed treatment market, expected by many to double globally by 2018, is loaded with technologies and purported solutions.

A Loaded Arsenal

When it comes to Research Triangle Park, NC-based BASF, 2013 proved a suitable year for its line of corn and soybean seed treatments.

“Stamina fungicide seed treatment, the core active ingredient in the BASF seed treatment portfolio, was an important player within the corn, wheat and cereals markets in 2013,” says Justin Clark, technical market specialist. “We look forward to building upon this success with future products that offer growers more tools to get the most out of every acre. The coming years will continue to be promising for BASF in seed treatment.”

Clark notes that BASF has plans to introduce a new fungicide seed treatment for corn by mid-decade.

Bayer CropScience’s flagship seed treatment, Poncho/VOTiVO, saw some ideal weather conditions that helped demonstrate the product’s effectiveness this spring, according to Ethan Luth, Seed Growth product manager.

“When you look at a year like this year, where we had kind of a rough start with a lot of late planting into cooler soil temperatures, the beauty of a product like Poncho/VOTiVO is that you still get consistent performance no matter what the environment is,” he says. “Plus, this is the only product with both insecticide and nematode protection in a single formulation on the market.”

Loveland Products, Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of CPS, currently has a couple seed treatment solutions in its product portfolio, according to Marty Robinson, seed treatment market manager.

“Equity’s uptake in the market was pretty substantial this past year,” he says. “The product has a low use rate, so it’s very dealer and applicator friendly, and it’s a four-way product (three fungicides and one insecticide) so it adds an additional fusarium and phomopsis mode of action as well.”

Loveland also markets Consensus, a plant growth regulator (PGR) with three specific modes of action, in soybeans and wheat. “The seed germinates faster, then another component aids in early root development and then it also provides for plant stress protection against pathogen attacks or cool/wet or hot/dry soils,” says Robinson. “Last year was our first full year with this product in the market and I’d say several million bushels of soybeans were treated with it, so it’s gone quite well.”

Consensus contains two active ingredients reportedly not found in combination in any other seed treatments on the market currently: salicylic acid, which provides for plant stress protection, and chitosan.

Combining Equity and Consensus has also proven prudent for many retailers, according to Robinson.

Monsanto’s top option in corn and soybean seed treatments, Acceleron, saw an increase in the number of retailers treating soybeans on-site with the product. Currently all Monsanto corn comes treated with Acceleron directly from the manufacturer.

“The product performed well in the market place in 2013 and we anticipate no new changes or reformulations to the product for 2014,” says Davie Wilson, product development manager, seed treatments. “We have nothing new coming out of our product pipeline for soybeans until 2017.”

Chicago, IL-based NuFarm, Inc., had a couple products making waves in the market in ’13. For corn it was Sativa 309 FS, according to Nathan Wright, seed treatment sales vice president. “That one’s getting a lot of excitement from national and regional seed companies for corn ear smut or head smut,” Wright says. “In fact, it’s one of the best products for that disease as a systemic seed treatment product, and some seed companies have done some internal testing of it on their own recently and it’s one of the products that kind of floats to the top in those studies I’m being told.”

NuFarm released a new soybean seed treatment to market in 2013, Spirato 480 FS, which enjoyed a relatively successful rookie year by Wright’s account.

“Spirato, containing fludioxonil — which is probably the most well-known base fungicide used across all crops — received a late fall 2012 registration,” he says. “That’s our base fungicide for soybeans and we of course mix other products with it. Something unique about Spirato is that it’s labeled across all crops so we actually sold it in sorghum, potatoes and sunflowers.”

NuFarm is also excited about its custom blend service for retailers, according to Wright. “The custom blend service is actually a step ahead of the industry because we can make sure the formula that we are putting out on the market is not above a labeled rate,” he says. “We can actually monitor product before it gets to the customer because we’re going to know what crop it’s for and what the right rates are on the label, and make sure the right polymers are in the mix to control dust off.”

Many companies (NuFarm included), concerned with the coming regulatory threat to insecticide seed treatments, are requiring a polymer be applied with all insecticides as company policy, says Wright.

“We think all of the neonicotinoid products will have more policy around the equipment and especially around the use of polymers, so you have better adhesion and lowering the dust-off potential with the right polymer,” he says. “We’re kind of trying to get ahead of the game and make sure anything that we put out there already has the protection built in up front.”

Syngenta, a manufacturer with perhaps more seed treatment technologies at its disposal than any of its competitors, saw two-fold adoption of its corn and soybean seed treatments this year.

In corn, Avicta Complete took the reins as the company’s top treatment, according to David Winston, Seedcare product lead. “Avicta Complete delivers triple protection against nematodes, early season diseases and insects, and with growers seemingly planting corn earlier and earlier each season, there are a lot of different environmental pressures and stresses growers need to manage.”

In corn, Vibrance, a SDHI-chemistry based fungicide product containing sedaxane for Rhizoctonia and head smut, will be added to Avicta Complete for the 2015 planting season. “This product helps drastically with root health, something that we need to focus on a little bit more in agriculture,” says Winston. “We need to pay just as much attention to what is happening underground as we do to the above ground parts of crops.”

In soybeans,  CruiserMaxx Beans applied with Vibrance was reportedly a top choice for growers looking for Rhizoctonia protection, according to Wouter Berkhout, Seedcare product lead. Vibrance helps soybeans withstand environmental stress; promotes healthier root performance; and delivers systemic root defense against certain seedborne, soilborne and foliar disease. “Through the use of Vibrance, soybean plants develop healthier, more robust root systems that lead to consistently higher yields,” says Berkhout.

Winfield, Shoreview, MN, focuses the majority of its downstream seed treatment solutions on soybeans, according to Mark Glady, regional agronomist. Glady, who manages Winfield’s 12 answer plots in the Western Minnesota/Eastern South Dakota region, saw a nice uptick in stand counts with Warden CX against untreated soybeans. Warden CX was in limited supply in 2013 due to a late registration, and will enjoy a full commercial launch for spring 2014.

“Warden CX is really our top-of-the-line, premiere seed treatment product,” says Glady. “It contains a brand new fungicide called sedaxane, which Syngenta is also formulating in some of its products, and the highest rate of mefenoxam in the industry for unsurpassed control of pythium.”

Glady claims the product is the only formulation on the market that contains sedaxane in a pre-mix with both an insecticide and a fungicide.

Meanwhile, at Valent U.S.A. Corporation, two seed treatments continued to make market headway in 2013, according to Jeff Weber, seed protection market manager.

“INOVATE just wrapped up its third year in soybeans and, although not all yields are in yet, the stand counts were seeing have been amazing,” says Weber. The product contains three actives, ipconazole, a low rate of metalaxyl and clothianidin, along with colorants and Lock Tight technology polymers.

“Lock Tight is our patented polymer — it really helps in the planter,” adds Weber. “We’re making it company policy that you cannot get an insecticide from us without this technology alongside it.”

Valent’s NipsIt SUITE line, which contains clothianidin and various rates of metalaxyl and metconazole depending on crop, also saw some nice adoption rates in wheat and sugarbeets.

“NipsIt SUITE is an optimum formulation that is very broadspectrum and very easy to use,” says Weber.

Grassi is the Assistant Editor for the CropLife Media Group, including CropLife and CropLife IRON magazines and the PrecisionAg Special Reports. He joined the staff in February 2012.
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