Treated Seeds — a proven solution for sustainable crop production

Treated seeds are one of the most innovative solutions that support farmers’ efforts to sustainably meet growing global demand for food.

Treated seeds contain a remarkably small and measured application of a crop protection product applied to the surface of the seed.  The seeds and the young plants that grow from them are protected from insects and diseases during the time when they are the most vulnerable. The crop protection products stay with the seed and seedling where they are the most targeted and available when the benefits are most significant. Learn more in this Cornell University study about the impact of one of the many insect pests that feed on seed and seedlings.

 

 

An investment in food security

Simply put, treated seeds offer an economical and sustainable way to boost food security by helping crops thrive, so they maximize their yield potential.

In addition to protecting the potential yield, treated seeds can significantly reduce the need for soil and foliar pesticide applications to manage early season pests, as well as the labor, pesticides costs, and fuel that come with pesticide applications.

Crop production benefits

Improve crop health and vigor

Improve crop health and vigor

By reducing or eliminating the impact of diseases and pests on the germinating seed and developing seedling, treated seeds support crop resiliency by enabling young plants to survive and thrive.

Increase yield potential

Increase yield potential

Seed treatments significantly reduce the impact of diseases and pests on the seed and plant to help it maximize its yield potential. 

Reduce the need for additional pesticide applications

Reduce the need for additional pesticide applications

By placing the crop protection chemistry where it’s needed the most, treated seeds reduce the use of foliar pesticide applications and the potential for non-target exposure to pesticides.

Support sustainable agriculture

Support sustainable agriculture

In addition to boosting yield potential and reducing pesticide applications, treated seeds support the use of sustainable agriculture practices and carbon sequestration by improving crop emergence and vigor when seeds are planted into cover crops and no-till environments.

Benefits beyond farming

The ever-increasing demand for food is a global challenge. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that the demand for food will increase 70%-100% by 2050. At the same time this demand for food is increasing, our nation is losing millions of acres that grow it. Urban sprawl alone claimed 11 million acres of tillable land in the last decade. Along with contributing to higher yields and food quality, treated seeds have positive environmental benefits, too.

Water: Because treatments are applied directly to the seed and planted beneath the soil, off-target movement is minimized. Advanced polymer coatings and the properties of the treatments themselves help ensure seed treatments stay with the seed. A recent study from Vermont confirmed that neonicotinoid insecticides used in seed treatments are not moving into waterways.

Soil: Diseases and insects thrive in the cooler, wetter growing conditions found in no-till and cover crop fields. Unprotected seeds planted into these conditions confront significantly greater pressure than they do in conventionally tilled fields. With a protective coating, seeds are more resilient to the additional pressures of these sustainable farming practices, enabling farmers to adopt them more broadly. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that between 2012 and 2017 – as the use of seed treatments increased – use of cover crops planted to cropland grew 50% and conventional tillage decreased 24%.

Safety: When used according to the label, treated seeds are safe for those who handle and plant them, as well as for consumers and the environment. The industry provides training for farmers about proper use of seed treatments and publishes user labels on every bag of seed. To learn more about the industry’s efforts, go to seed-treatment-guide.com.

Learn more about pesticide safety here: Safety Data Behind Pesticides

Health and safety

With 75% of the world’s flowering plants and 35% of the world’s food crop depending on pollinators to reproduce, farmers fully understand the importance of protecting them. Recent reports from the states of Washington and Vermont confirm the safety of neonicotinoid seed treatments to pollinators.

To support ongoing efforts to ensure pollinator safety, the industry publishes guidelines including the Protect Pollinators Checklist.

Some seed treatments include neonicotinoids, or neonics, a class of insecticides that have been used safely for decades to help protect yield and produce food for millions. Neonicotinoid insecticides have a unique mode of action against targeted pests and are safe and effective when used according to the label. 

Neonicotinoids are highly effective as seed treatments because a very small amount is needed to control targeted pests since it is applied directly to the seed and placed underground where most of the stress occurs.  

According to a comprehensive economic analysis from AgInfomatics, use of neonicotinoid seed treatments have boosted yields an average of 3.6 to 71.3 percent across eight major crops in North America and reduced potential soil surface exposure by more than 90 percent compared to other application methods. Without neonicotinoids, AgInfomatics reports every pound of product currently applied would need to be replaced by five pounds of other insecticides and would necessitate increased production of up to 400,000 acres of U.S crop land to offset losses in crop yield and quality.  

For more information go to: https://neonicfacts.org/

The Value of Neonicotinoids in North America

Crop protection components of treated seeds are highly regulated – twice. First, the pesticide must be studied and reviewed for use as a seed treatment by the U.S. EPA, then the seeds are regulated by state and federal seed control agencies. All pesticide products used as seed treatments continue to be reviewed by regulatory agencies for as long as they are sold. To receive approval, they must be proven safe to the environment, consumers, applicators and farmers. Regulations mandate that anyone who treats, handles, transports, plants, recycles, re-uses, or disposes of treated seeds manage them properly and according to label instructions to minimize risk of pesticide exposure to humans and the environment. 

More information about seed treatment regulations can be found here.

FAQs

Q: What are treated seeds?

A: Treated seeds are seeds that have been lightly coated with various products that enhance plant vigor and help protect them from a variety of diseases and pests that attack the seed and seedlings following planting. The treatments applied to the seeds may include fungicides, insecticides, nematicides, and biological products depending on the need of the farmer and the growing environment. 

Treated seeds are encapsulated in polymer coatings to adhere the treatment to the seed, providing an additional safety measure for farmers and the environment. 

Q: How are treated seeds used?

A: Small amounts of pesticides are professionally applied by seed companies or certified applicators. Treated seed is planted in the soil early in the growing season, significantly reducing off-target exposure to pollinators. 

Q: How do seed treatments work?

A: The fungicides, nematicides, insecticides, and biologicals used as seed treatments have unique modes of action that target specific diseases or pests. Different crop protection products may be used as seed treatments based on the types of pests and diseases that attack a crop in various growing environments. All crop protection products used as seed treatments are thoroughly regulated and regularly reviewed by federal and state authorities.  

Q: Are seed treatments necessary?

A: Yes. Without seed treatments, farmers would need to revert to more intensive and costly ag practices to achieve the same results — requiring more tillage, fewer cover crops and more foliar sprays. They enable farmers to maximize yields with more measured amounts of pesticides applied precisely where they are needed the most. 

Q: Are seed treatments safe?

A: Every crop protection product is highly regulated and extensively evaluated before being approved for use, including the small, targeted amounts applied on seeds. Along with both U.S. and state agency reviews, all treated seed packaging includes a use label, and the seed industry actively promotes proper use and stewardship.

Q: How is the disposal of treated seed handled?

A: The industry strives to avoid the need to dispose of treated seed because it is an added cost for both the seed and for disposal. 

Each year farmers, seed retailers and seed companies carefully calculate how much treated seed they need. However, if the treated seed is damaged or does not meet quality specifications, it may require disposal. Seed companies have programs in place for farmers and retailers to return and properly dispose of seed that has been treated. 

Q: Do farmers have the option to not use seed treatment? 

A: Yes. Farmers can choose not to use treated seed. But the majority of farmers see the added value of protecting their crop yield potential and quality, as well as the environmental benefits it enables. In addition, many organic farmers can choose to use biological-based seed treatments. 

Learn more by contacting info@betterseed.org