Maximize Your ROI by Selecting the Right Seed Traits

FBN Network

Oct 30, 2023

Selecting the right seed for your operation is a critical decision that significantly impacts yield and profits. With so many genetics and traits available, knowing how they work and which ones best benefit your operational goals can help you make an informed decision when it’s time to make a purchase. 

The Difference Between Seed Genetics vs. Traits

Knowing the difference between genetics and traits can help you make the right decision regarding seed selection. Genetics and traits are two different pieces of the crop production puzzle — genetics are the pieces that create yield potential and traits are designed to protect it.

Genetics are the inherited characteristics of the seed — the things a hybrid or variety is bred to do at the DNA level. These characteristics can include maturity, emergence and standability, and will ultimately determine yield potential. Any hybrid or variety is only as good as the genetic foundation it is built on.

Traits, on the other hand, are added to protect the existing yield potential. Many commercial corn and soybean seeds include insect and herbicide protection packages that can prevent insect larvae from destroying your crop or make it easier to spray herbicides to protect against weeds.

According to USDA-NASS, the combination of genetics and traits has helped growers in the U.S. increase their corn yields by an average of 1.9 bushels per acre per year since the 1930s.1 Since traited seed didn’t become widely commercially available until the 1990s, genetic advancement and improved management have played a vital role in this increase. 

Types of Common Seed Traits

Insect Resistance Traits

Insect resistance traits allow you to reduce or eliminate the amount of insecticide needed to control the following insects:

Most seed varieties have several traits controlling at least one insect; some even include two or three traits designed to control the same insect. If your seed is labeled to suppress an insect, it will carry traits or insecticides to prevent the high density populations that pose the greatest risk to yield. Unless your seeds are labeled for insect control, your crop will still be at risk for low-level infestations. Seeds labeled for insect control carry a trait that will actively block any insect in a specific family from feeding on it.

When evaluating a trait package, consider what pests pose the biggest threat in your area. If your crop is particularly at risk for ECB or cutworm, invest in a trait that will control these pests. If the risk of earworm or stalk borer is minimal, consider a seed treatment that will work to suppress these pests instead of opting for a more expensive control package. Regardless of approach, proactively scouting fields and addressing in-season threats as they arise are still critical to preventing damage from unwanted insect pests.

Herbicide Tolerance Traits

Herbicide tolerance traits help control weeds and reduce competition for nutrients, water and sunlight in weed-prone areas. These traits commonly include 2-4D tolerance, glyphosate tolerance and glufosinate tolerance. Using herbicide tolerance traits can significantly increase yield and should be accounted for when considering your seed selection. 

Disease Resistance Traits

Disease resistance traits help protect crops from growth and productivity diseases. Because different seed varieties have varying levels of resistance to specific diseases, you’ll want to account for your own particular growing conditions and disease pressures to help minimize the risk of yield losses caused by various pathogens.

Enlist E3® Soybean Traits

Enlist E3® Soybeans, available for purchase on FBN® Direct, can help farmers maximize yield potential by combining crop tolerance and strong broadleaf weed control. 

Enlist E3® soybeans, which were developed as part of a partnership between M.S. Technologies, L.L.C. and Dow AgroSciences, give growers the ability to control weeds with up to three unique herbicide modes of action. “The Enlist E3 soybean event includes, for the first time, three herbicide tolerance genes stacked together as part of a single genetic event in the soybean genome,” the MS Technologies website explains. “Because of its molecular construction, the Enlist E3 trait delivers herbicide-tolerant trait technology in superior soybean varieties to the farm, faster.” 

“With Enlist E3® soybeans, the three herbicide tolerances — 2,4-D choline, glyphosate and glufosinate — combine to deliver a complete system with more weed control options,” notes the Enlist website

Best Practices for Seed Genetics and Trait Selection

  • Consider crop rotation. Rotating crops will help manage pests, diseases and weeds more effectively by disrupting the life cycles of pathogens that have built up in the soil, significantly impacting yield.

  • Market demand. Understanding market trends can tell you which traits are in high demand and help in choosing seeds with disease resistance, improved yield potential or other specific characteristics. 

  • Environmental conditions. Choose traits that are well suited to your operation’s specific climate, soil type or pest pressure conditions . For example, if you have high pest pressure, selecting crops with built-in pest resistance can reduce the need for chemical inputs.

  • Farm goals and resources. Determine the goals you want to achieve, whether aiming for higher yields, improved profitability or sustainability. Then assess your available resources, such as labor, equipment and infrastructure, to ensure you can effectively manage these traits on your farm.

  • Genetic diversity. Select traits that promote genetic diversity to help reduce the risk of disease outbreaks and increase resilience to changing environmental conditions.

How to Choose the Right Seed Genetics and Traits

Prioritizing genetics vs. traits in your seed selection comes down to the specific needs of your operation. You may want to ask yourself questions like:

  • Do I need glufosinate tolerance?

  • Should I proactively address insect pressure or wait to see activity in the field?

  • How does last year’s trait selection impact this season?

  • Are traits worth the ROI?

Some farmers choose genetics first because it sets the yield foundation. In contrast, others choose traits first because they can sometimes protect yield and potentially even increase it. Post-harvest evaluation showcases standability and disease pressure, helping farmers draw conclusions about past seed performance and yield. 

Buy Seed from FBN Direct®

FBN Direct offers a diverse seed portfolio with elite genetics, industry-leading traits and proven ROI. Choose from a wide variety of traited corn, conventional corn and Enlist E3® soybeans.

With direct-to-farm delivery, 24/7 digital shopping access, transparent list prices, and real-time availability, FBN seed gives you more control over how you grow.

Related FBN Resources


  1. Historical Corn Grain Yields In The U.S. | Purdue University

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Product Use Statement: Enlist E3® soybeans contain the Enlist E3 trait that provides crop safety for use of labeled over-the-top applications of glyphosate, glufosinate and 2,4-D herbicides featuring Colex-D® technology when applied according to label directions. Following burndown, the only 2,4-D containing herbicide products that may be used with Enlist™ crops are products that feature Colex-D technology and are expressly labeled for use on enlist crops. 2,4-D products that do not contain Colex-D technology are not authorized for use in conjunction with Enlist E3 soybeans. Warning: Enlist E3 soybeans are tolerant of over-the top applications of glyphosate, glufosinate, and 2,4-D. Accidental application of incompatible herbicides to this variety could result in total crop loss. When using 2,4-D herbicides, grower agrees to only use 2,4-D products that contain Colex-D technology authorized for use in conjunction with Enlist E3 soybeans. Always read and follow herbicide label directions prior to use. YOU MUST SIGN A TECHNOLOGY AGREEMENT, READ THE PRODUCT USE GUIDE PRIOR TO PLANTING AND FOLLOW HERBICIDE RESISTANCE MANAGEMENT (HRM) REQUIREMENTS. The transgenic event in the Enlist E3® soybean is protected under Corteva Agriscience and M.S. Technologies, L.L.C. Patent Rights which can be found at: The transgenic event in the Enlist E3® soybean event in Enlist E3® soybeans is jointly developed and owned by Dow AgroSciences LLC and M.S. Technologies, L.L.C. ®™ Enlist, Enlist E3, the Enlist E3 logo and Colex-D are trademarks of Dow AgroSciences LLC. Please read the M.S. Technologies, L.L.C. Use Restriction Agreement located at: - FBN recommendations regarding seed placement are based on field observations collected by FBN Direct, provided by FBN suppliers, contributed by member farmers or are consistent with local established agronomic practices. Individual results and performance may vary depending on local growing, soil, weather conditions, commodity prices.

FBN Network

Oct 30, 2023