Seed Treatment Basics: Do You Know What's Being Added to Your Seed?

FBN Network

Jan 11, 2019

Seed is foundational. The genetics in the bag you purchase contain all the yield potential you can hope to have for the year. But good genetics alone can’t make up for every challenge your crop might face. Severe environmental and pest pressures can devastate young plants before they even make it out of the ground. There are several practices you can adopt to ensure that your crop gets the early protection it needs—one used by many farmers is adding a seed treatment for added protection against those pressures.

Let’s take a look at how seed treatments work and what kind of protection they can help to provide.

What are seed treatments?

A seed treatment is a biological organism, nutrient, colorant or chemical applied directly to the seed that helps control any of a number of pests that attack seeds, seedlings and plants, helping improve overall crop performance.

Most seed treatments are made up of a few ingredients—typically, they include one or several types of active ingredients along with additives:

  • Fungicides: Defend seeds from fungal diseases and pathogens.

  • Insecticides: Protect seeds from below ground insects and insect larvae, and provide seedlings with early protection from above ground insects and insect larvae.

  • Additives: Provide early season benefits for plant health in certain environmental conditions. Includes products such as nematicides, inoculants, flow additives, biostimulants, nutrients and inoculants.

  • Seed Enhancements: These products have unique attributes that help make seed more useable or are in some cases required by law. They include dyes or colorants, flowability agents, polishing agents and coatings.

What seed treatments actually do

Seed treatments provide seeds and seedlings with the extra defense they need to get a healthy, uniform start. They are particularly helpful in scenarios where cold or wet conditions might hinder early growth and vigor.

The application directly on the seed is significant for a few reasons:
  • First, direct placement on the seed is an efficient method. The fungicide and insecticide are exactly where they need to be to protect the seed and seedling, and no product is lost due to an indirect application.

  • Secondly, the use of insecticide directly on the seed allows the product to curb insects that cause the greatest amount of early damage and would otherwise be missed.

  • Some seed treatment products create a zone of protection around the seed and young plant. Other seed treatments are systemic and travel within the plant to provide protection.

What Should Be in Your Seed Treatment Program?

It’s possible that you can have too much or too little of a good thing. There are many different formulations of seed treatments on the market. Rates and active ingredients vary, so it’s important to know exactly what goes on your seed to make sure you have the best fit for your operation.

Here are some common active ingredients offered in various seed treatment formulations for corn and soybeans, as well as some of the pathogens they protect against:

  • Fludioxonil: Can be used to protect against fusarium and rhizoctonia

  • Tebuconazole: Can be used to protect against fusarium

  • Metalaxyl: Can help to combat phytophthora and pythium

  • Thiabendazole: Can be used to help manage Sudden Death Syndrome in soybeans

  • Azoxystrobin: Can be used as a defense against pythium and rhizoctonia

  • Pyraclostrobin: Can be used as a broad-spectrum fungicide on many crops

  • Ipconazole: Can be used as a broad-spectrum fungicide to protect plants from soil-borne and seed-borne disease

  • Imidacloprid – A broad spectrum insecticide that minimizes damage from soil-borne insects

  • Clothianidin — Can be used to control a number of insects, often on late-planted corn.

  • Thiamethoxam — Can be used to help control chinch bugs, flea beetles and black cutworms, among others. 

How much of an active ingredient do you need?

Much of the industry uses what is commonly called a “250 rate” of insecticide. You might also see a common standard rate of 500. Occasionally, you might see a company offering a 1250 rate for an extreme situation with corn rootworm or billbugs, but if you don’t have this pest pressure, consider the extra active you might be paying for—it pays to read labels and understand rates thoroughly!

Seed treatment on corn from the F2F Genetics NetworkTM (Imidacloprid, Fludioxonil, Metalaxyl, Pryaclostrobin), typically offers a 500 rate as the standard, providing 10 percent more insecticide, extending the length of control over competitors’ offerings. Every bag of seed corn purchased through the F2F Genetics Network includes a seed treatment program utilizing Imidacloprid, as well as Fludioxonil, Metalaxyl and Pyraclostrobin.

Soybean seed purchased through the F2F Genetics Network can also be treated for an additional $5 per bag — this unique combination of fungicides and high rate of insecticide (Metalaxyl, Ipconizole, and Imidacloprid) has shown in 2018 testing to increase germination by up to 15 percent.

Seed treatments can help you to mitigate risk and ensure that your crop gets off to the best start possible, but they can often be an added cost to your operation. Keep in mind the additional cost, balanced with the right protection you actually need for your farm.


“F2F Genetics Network” branded seed products and other seed products are offered by FBN Inputs, LLC and are available only in states where FBN Inputs, LLC is licensed.

FBN Network

Jan 11, 2019