“Protecting the seed below the ground is as important as taking care of the plant above ground.” During my more than 20 years covering the agricultural marketplace, I’ve heard variations on this phrase over and over when it comes to the seed care sector. And it’s comforting to know that, despite all the other changes to the industry that have taken place thus far in calendar year 2020, the important role seed care plays in agriculture has remained unchanged.
In truth, I was personally exposed to seed care early on in my CropLife® magazine career. One of my first in-person assignments back when I first joined the magazine was to attend a seed care demonstration at the Heartland Co-op outlet located in Dallas Center, IA. There, I got to see firsthand how crop protection chemicals were applied to soybean seeds, turning them from their regular pale brown color to various shades of the red. (This was also where the quote I used to start off this column — or some version of it — was first uttered to me by the facility manager showing me around!)
Still, there might have been a few in the ag retail business that were wondering about seed treatment going into the 2020 growing season. After all, according to data collected in the 2019 CropLife 100 survey of the nation’s top ag retailers, the seed treatment sector did not exactly grow at a healthy clip. In fact, according to respondents, the split between those ag retailers that recorded sales growth in this area during 2019 and those that had flat or declining revenues was pretty evenly divided — 35% seeing increases, 34% seeing flat sales, and 31% recording sales declines. Part of the explanation for this during the 2019 growing season could tie back to the large number of prevent plant acres (where seeds never made it into the ground) that happened last year. According to most experts, this totaled almost 19 million acres nationwide.
But all this lost ground apparently came back in 2020 — literally and figuratively — for seed care. According to agricultural observers, better than 90% of the prevent plant acres from 2019 were recovered and planted with seed this year. And the 2020 CropLife 100 survey numbers bear this out. Based upon the primary data collected at press time, 44% of the nation’s top ag retailers will see seed treatment revenues grow this year, with another 40% recording sales equal to their 2019 totals. Only 16% of respondents will see sales declines for the year.
Given this, it’s easy to see that the quote I heard regarding seed care almost 20 years ago is still resonating with ag retailers and their grower-customers today!