The Growing Importance Of Seed Care
From a relatively minor (and oftentimes messy) part of the ag retail business, seed treatments have steadily grown into a worldwide multi-billion dollar proposition. Today, the majority of ag retail outlets are likely to have some kind of seed treating equipment in their warehouses alongside bags of seeds.
“Seed treating has grown into an extremely good part of our overall business,” said Dave Coppess, executive vice president, sales & marketing for Heartland Coop, during a visit by CropLife to one of the cooperative’s seed treatment facilities. “We’ve definitely seen healthy growth in this part of our company’s offerings to growers.”
And many other ag retailers would probably echo these sentiments. In fact, CropLife recently conducted an online survey on the state of seed care and respondents were overwhelmingly positive on this portion of their operations. When asked if their outlets were offering seed care/seed treatment as a part of their businesses during 2014, 81% answered yes. But even more impressively, 84% of this group indicated that their seed treatment revenues had increased over the past three years, with another 10% saying that their profits had remained constant over this same time period.
In terms of what seeds are the most likely to be treated by the ag retailer, it’s not much of a contest. Far and away, soybean seed leads the pack, with 62% of respondents offering this service. Cereal seeds rank a distant second at 28%, followed by corn at 12%.
As for what kinds of products are being put onto the seed before it leaves the ag retail facility, fungicides and insecticides are the most popular, being applied by 96% and 87% of respondents, respectively. Other popular product options for providing seed care include inoculants at 77%, growth promoters at 51%, colorants at 40% and biologicals and nematicides, both at 33%.
When it comes to the grower-customers, the majority of seed care survey respondents said they were primarily looking for one thing when employing seed treatments on their seeds – added protection. “They want more consistent emergence and stand establishment protection against seedling diseases and pests,” wrote one respondent. “More consistent emergence and healthier plants with higher yields is their final goal.”
The Growers’ View
Of course, other respondents also said their grower-customers were looking for better yields to boost overall profits. “Our growers expect that their seed is treated with the right products that will benefit the crops and the growers’ bottom line,” wrote another respondent.
In terms of the types of seed treatment equipment being used at the ag retail level, USC is the most popular. According to the survey, 64% of respondents employ USC units in their seed treatment operations. The second and third most popular seed treatment units are KSi Conveyors at 34% and Bayer SeedGrowth’s On Demand System at 21%.
And as far as support from these manufacturers when it comes to servicing these units, the majority of ag retailers are quite pleased. According to the survey, 71% of respondents ranked the support they receive from seed treatment producers as “meeting expectations.” Another 11% wrote that this level of manufacturer support “exceeds expectations.”
Finally, the survey wanted to find out why the small portion of ag retailers not involved in seed treatment were reluctant to get into this business. This part of the survey allowed respondents to choose multiple reasons, so the total percentages added up to more than 100%.
According to the results, 67% said that it was a lack of in-house expertise in managing seed treatment that has prevented them from offering this service to grower-customers. Additionally, 42% said that storage concerns were their main reason for not performing seed treatments at their outlets. Another popular choice for avoiding seed treatment was concerns over state and federal regulations.