Traited seed is easily the highest fixed-cost input among soybean and cereal crops growers, according to a study from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign that analyzed data from 2015 grower-submitted crop budgets. Other Land Grant University economic studies published over the years seem to agree with the Illini’s findings as well.
With that in mind, protecting that wieldy early season investment with a custom-blended, downstream applied seed treatment is perhaps a grower’s best and most-economical hedge to protect yields.
“When it comes to seed treatments, you’re using them to preserve a high cost input. In these situations, we want to protect the seed as much as we can so we do get a better stand, which helps you throughout the growing season,” explains Troy Greenfield, Manager of Crop Protection, seed, and YieldPoint at CHS. “If you have a better stand you shade the ground, which helps preserve moisture, and inhibits weed growth. Better weed control ultimately means better yields.”
A ‘Must-Have’ In Upper Midwest
The brother-brother team of Mitch and Matt Bambauer head up Bambauer Fertilizer & Seed, a retailer based in the hottest of early-season soybean disease hotbeds in west-central Ohio.
While Mitch serves as Location Manager and Agronomy Representative at the companies’ Jackson Center location, Matt takes care of the seed treatment business.
“We believe that even though farm revenues have decreased, seed treatments will still play a critical role in helping with stand development, especially here in Ohio, where we have a tremendous disease environment,” explains Matt Bambauer. “As a retailer we like to have beans treated to make sure the farmer has good results, and saving money on seed treatment is quickly forgotten when you have to replant because of no treatment.”
When asked to get into specifics, Bambauer says that the standard base treatment that his division deploys has been Syngenta’s ApronMaxx fungicide seed treatment.
“We use the heavy rate of 0.64-oz./100wt for tough Pythium and Phytopthora in our area,” Bambauer says. “Another common high end treatment we use is CruiserMaxx with Vibrance Fungicide and Excalibur Inoculant added, and we’ll still spike with a higher rate of Apron for water molds like Phytopthora. The Vibrance adds some Fusarium control.”
Bambauer says for the upcoming season his retail outlet is stressing with growers the importance of doing their homework on the different active ingredients, especially with all of the sometimes confusing brand names being used in today’s retail market.
“I would recommend that a customer knows clearly what he is buying to make sure they are getting a good value for their money, and are going to have satisfactory results in the field, specifically when it comes to Pythium and Phytopthora control.”
Blending Across America
With an operating territory that spans North-South from Canada to Texas, and East-West from Michigan to the Pacific Northwest, CHS’ Greenfield says that without the ability to tailor seed treatment actives for various regional growing conditions the No. 6-ranked CropLife 100 retail operation would be up you-know-what creek without a paddle.
“It takes different blends for different regions, and having that flexibility is vital for our agronomists because a standard box chemistry from one of the major manufacturers doesn’t allow you to do that,” he says from his Inver Grove, MN, office. “We need to be able to come with a custom blend for each geography, because we all know that raising wheat in Kansas is different from raising wheat out in Washington.”
Greenfield says CHS develops custom blends for both soybeans and cereals crops — the cooperative has a huge presence in the high intensity wheat growing regions of the U.S. and Canada — and its most popular blend typically contains three fungicide active ingredients, and will also at times include some insecticide for protection against pests as the crop bursts through the top layer of soil.
“The agronomic benefit to the grower is generally early emergence, stronger crop start, and it ultimately helps the plant build yield through the growing season,” says Greenfield. “For us as a retailer, it is another touch point with the grower on that acre, and it ultimately just helps to build a relationship with the grower and improves their profitability.”
CHS also offers a Plant Growth Regulator (PGR) via its branded PGR CHS Unlocked. PGRs sound a bit similar to another three letter acronym, HGH, in that they allow plants to live a longer, healthier life.
“Let’s say if it’s a bell curve (adoption rate of PGRs), it’s reached the top, and so we’re currently looking at the next generation of PGRs,” he shares. “When you do put on a PGR it’s very visible in plant emergence and plant growth. Most, including ours, provide three benefits: improved crop growth by stimulating cell enlargement, delayed senescence (plant aging) and improved nutrient mobilization.”
Inoculants also end up on a high percentage of CHS downstream treated seed, especially soybeans and wheat grown north of the Mason-Dixon Line.
“Really in the Dakotas it’s a necessity (inoculation),” Greenfield advises. “There’s less used, I would say, in Minnesota and Iowa, and areas where they’ve historically always had a strong corn/bean rotation. But you get into the Dakotas or anyplace else where it may be soybeans once every three years or longer, it is a necessity, and we see big yield differences if you don’t have it on in those geographies.”
He says CHS’ proprietary inoculant provides a two-fold benefit: one active ingredient fixes the nitrogen in the plant with nitrogen-fixing bacteria, and the other active stimulates root growth, which helps maximize nodulations and nutrient uptake.
“And I still think in the 50-50 crop rotation you see the benefit from not only the inoculant but also from new (bacterial) strains being added to the soil,” he adds.