Take a moment and recall weather and field conditions at planting time last spring. Now, take a look at your yields. And although each growing season always presents challenges, consider how much more difficult it might have been to get from beginning to end without seed treatments.
With the loss of tried and true in-furrow products, cotton growers have embraced seed treatments as their best insurance to help their crops get off to a good start.
“Those first 40 days when young cotton plants are germinating and emerging are so critical to getting the crop off to a strong start,” said Bill Robertson, University of Arkansas Extension cotton specialist.
“Cotton is not a real strong competitor early in its life cycle,” he added. “And growers have to do what they can to get it off to a good start. Those first 40 days really can make or break yield potential in cotton. It would be much more difficult to farm and be profitable without seed treatments.”
Robertson pointed out that growers benefit not only from the insect, nematode and disease control that treatments provide. They also reap the advantages of the time and resources that seed companies invest to evaluate the best products and rates that will provide the right balance between efficacy and affordability.
“We could put a Cadillac treatment on seed for just about anything,” he said. “But not everyone needs – or could afford – that.”
Obviously, the true value of seed treatments come at planting, when field and weather conditions are generally less than ideal. In many parts of the Cotton Belt in 2014, spring weather provided small windows for different field operations. Planting took priority in one window. Herbicide treatments behind the planter filled another. For growers who chose to rely on a foliar program for thrips control, making timely treatments may have been difficult.
“Even if we didn’t have rainfall or other weather issues to impact foliar treatments, it would still be difficult for growers to stay ahead of thrips without a seed treatment,” stated Robertson. “In my opinion, growers who rely solely on foliar applications for thrips are going to be behind from the start. And it’s going to get worse.”
For nematodes, current nematicide seed treatments do provide some protection at planting, and new options are expected on the market soon. But Robertson is equally excited about the value that new nematode resistant cotton varieties can provide.