RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — As farmers try to plant their corn and soybean crops earlier and earlier, seed treatments can be a powerful tool to help them capture those additional bushels.
“When you think about planting dates earlier, that’s all about driving yield potential. If you plant earlier, you’re maximizing that canopy closure and light interception. But, on the flipside, you’re making that environment more conducive for those seedling diseases,” said Jeremiah Mullock, BASF research and development manager for seed treatments.
“It’s really balancing that optimum planting date. That seed treatment helps facilitate that optimum planting date by providing that protection where we know those environments are more conducive to seedling loss.”
After a winter season with a lot of snow and rain, fields this spring will likely be cool and wet — conditions that favor today’s nearly ubiquitous seedling disease pathogens, particularly the Pythium species, Mullock said.
“It’s really about getting that stand up and out. We don’t know what the conditions are going to be when we put that seed in the ground. That’s the protection that seed treatments can bring,” he said. “What’s really important is that three to seven days after you plant that seed.
It all starts with the seed. Protecting that seed is crucial for the success of a farmer’s entire season, Mullock said.
“There’s a lot of value seed treatments can bring from seedling disease protection to insecticidal activity and nematode activity, and then we also have the biologic component for plant health,” he said.
“BASF has a portfolio that will fit into all of those pieces. We have the soybean package that we can offer with Obvius Plus that is a four-way fungicide system, as well as for corn, we have our Poncho/VOTiVO 2.0.
“So, we are excited about bringing this innovation. With Poncho with have the No. 1 seed treatment insecticide, the VOTiVO component brings nematode protection, as well as plant growth promotion and then the 2.0 component is really unique in it’s delivering an enzyme, and that enzyme actually is part of that sustainability message.
“So, it increases microbial activity by making sugars active. So, the sugars are active for the microbes and then that microbial activity increases nutrient cycling and plant uptake and water utilization.
“It’s really kind of a new space that we’re bringing. So, that life cycle management of that Poncho family — Poncho bringing insecticide activity, we brought in VOTiVO for that nematode and plant growth and now we’re going into that soil health sustainability piece with the 2.0.
Poncho/VOTiVO 2.0 was released last year and used, in particular, by Indiana-based Beck’s Hybrids.
“We’re excited about the innovation that it brings and the story that we can tell in bringing growers an additional 3.8 bushels of yield on top of the premium corn seed treatment and insecticide and nematode protectant,” Mullock said. “Over our four years of BASF trialing, we see a 3.8 bushel benefit of Poncho/VOTiVO 2.0 compared to Poncho/VOTiVO.”
He noted the Beck’s seal of approval is a sign that the product works.
“They’re looking for innovation, and they’re an early adopter, fast to move in the marketplace,” he said. “So, it’s a great opportunity to get this messaging out for what Poncho/VOTiVO 2.0 can do.”
Seed companies traditionally manage the commercial value of their corn and treat it upstream. For soybeans, which can’t be carried over to the next season, the treatment occurs closer to the grower.
Mullock, in turn, encourages soybean growers to request that their retailers apply a treatment to their seed.
“Obvius Plus just received registration late last year. We’ll be looking to sell that product this fall, for the 2020 growing season,” he said. “It’s a soybean fungicide system with four active ingredients, bringing you some early season plant growth benefits, as well as a broad spectrum disease protection that’s really needed and critical to get that stand up and going.”
Mullock conceded that the market is crowded. But BASF’s products, he said, stand out.
“You want to get that plant up and out of the ground and limit any stresses that can cause yield loss from the fungicide component,” he said. “Ultimately, it’s got to deliver yield for the grower. The grower is paying for yield at the end of the season.”
Also for soybeans, Mullock suggested the ILeVO seed treatment to help fight sudden death syndrome and nematodes.
“It’s bringing a 4- to 10-bushel yield advantage when we see that above-ground symptoms of SDS. We see a 2- to 4-bushel yield increase under that below-ground pressure, where you have nematodes only or you only have that root rot that causes SDS,” he said.
Many growers incorrectly think of SDS as a foliar-only disease, Mullock said.
“Really, that disease starts below ground. So, that’s where that benefit of ILeVO comes in, in protecting from that actual infection of the disease,” he said.
Once a grower sees the disease, they’ve already lost, Mullock said.
“The same for nematodes,” he said. “Once those nematodes are there, they’re below ground, we can’t do anything to rescue that crop from those infections. So, that seed treatment provides that preventative protection to eliminate nematode infection, as well as that seedling infection of the Fusarium virguliformeis, the agent that causes SDS.”
SDS and nematodes typically are among the top yield robbers, year after year, Mullock said.
“Once they’re in your soil, you can’t eliminate them. So, it’s really about proper agronomy and integrated management for each of these pests, where SDS you want to pair a tolerant variety with a seed treatment like ILeVO that’s providing that below-ground infection, where the variety is addressing that toxin that causes those foliar symptoms, and then for nematode management it’s really critical to understand your pest population, do soil sampling, as well as pairing a resistant variety,” he said.
“We know that the primary source of resistance, the PI 88788, is starting to fail. We’re starting to see less efficacy out of those. So, pairing a nematicidal seed treatment like ILeVO helps to bring that additional yield potential and protection from nematode infection.”
Mullock described resistance as “a slow train working towards a cliff.”
“Ninety-seven percent of the varieties use the same source of resistance, PI 88788,” he said. “We can’t transfer over all of our seed portfolios to a new source of resistance in time, so adding in that nematode seed treatment like ILeVO provides that additional yield and protection that we’re starting to lose out of PI 88788.”