Each year, we have the question come up as to whether producers should be using seed treatments on the crop that they are planting. The simple answer is yes but the real answer is more complex. The place to start the discussion is to look at what is happens after you plant your crop. When a seed goes into the ground, it starts absorbing moisture. Moisture is required for the chemical reactions that initiate germination in the seed. Once the water is present, swelling of the seed coat starts. The seed becomes open to potential infections. There are organisms in the soil that can do damage to the germinating seed. In warm soils, germination occurs very quickly. The potential for infection is reduced. In cold soils, the risk of infection goes up. Seed treatments can provide an extra layer of protection at early growth stages. Once the new shoot starts to grow, it requires nutrients, air and water. If the soil is too wet, too dry or to cold, the ability of the new shoot to grow can be greatly reduced. If growth is slowed by limiting any of these factors, the potential for plant infection increases. Seed treatments can help provide a barrier to potential disease at this stage. As development continues, a plant with a healthy root system has the capability to fend off disease. The direct impact of the seed treatment will be reduced over time but healthy root systems will do a better job of going out and finding the nutrients that the plant requires for the plant parts that we harvest. Seed treatments are effective in controlling disease potential in plants. In different areas of our region, we see different organisms that potentially cause root disease. If you see a diseased plant in a field, it is worth sending it to the provincial lab to find out what is causing the problem. Once the disease is identified, a producer can look at the label of the potential seed treatment products that you can use and be certain that the product will concern the disease that needs to be dealt with. There are numerous disease-causing organisms in our soil in our area, so selecting the right product for the right disease is essential. Root diseases do not show up every year, but in our area, they show up more frequently than many areas because of our variable weather. Cool springs, major rainfalls in the growing season, dry periods that show up throughout the growing season and extremely hot temperatures are all potential weather events that can put stress on a crop. Seed treatments give the plant a better chance of coping with these stresses. Picking the right seed treatment is essential for reducing disease your fields. Seed treatments, in my view are an insurance program to help the plants in your fields deal with the climatic variability that we see in our area.
By Dave Cubbon, P Ag