June 9, 2014
Putting Seed Treatment First in Cereal Agronomy
Growers across the country should see seed treatment as the first step in their winter cereals agronomy rather than the last part of their seed purchasing, advises research-led agronomy leader, Agrii.
“Our best growers appreciate that some of their biggest pest and disease risks stem from the 3-4 month gap between sowing and their T0 spring spray,” explained regional seed manager, Rodger Shirreff. “So they work with their agronomists to ensure this gap is bridged by the right crop protection decisions at drilling.
“Yet too often growers and advisers fail to appreciate that variety and seed treatment are as important as foliar sprays in crop protection. This results in decisions made in isolation at planting which can both compromise and complicate spring treatment programmes, seriously undermining the ‘integrated crop care’ we see as fundamental to improving performance.”
It is to overcome this ‘strategic gap’ in thinking as much as timing that Agrii has developed the concept of T(-1). Building on best grower and agronomist practice from the company’s extensive trials programme and field experience, the additional crop protection timing has been designed to give a more joined-up approach to crop protection across the whole winter cereal production cycle.
“We want T(-1) to become as much a part of every grower’s treatment practice as T0, T1, T2 and T3,” stressed Rodger Shirreff. “ I see T(-1) as a key winter cereal crop protection timing. In fact, as the basis for the whole annual programme, it may even be the single most important timing, offering extremely valuable margin over cost benefits.
“Like all other crop protection inputs, it needs to be managed by a BASIS-qualified professional. And, importantly in my view, by the same qualified professional responsible for the rest of the farm’s programme.
“In the past as an agronomist I’ve had to deal with pest, disease and weed control issues in the spring which could easily have been avoided if I’d been fully involved in seed-based decision-making. I’ve also had to take spring decisions with little accurate knowledge of the chemistry previously applied. This has seriously hampered making the most of the crop protection tools available.
“Much of the problem stems from the fact it’s all too easy to make seed treatment decisions by default,” he warned. “They tend to be very much of an add-on after variety choice, and sold by seedsmen rather than prescribed by agronomists.
“Though they may be termed SPDs, it’s important to appreciate there’s no such thing as a Single Purpose Dressing these days. Just like foliar sprays, crop protecting seed treatments all have different properties and must be specified every bit as carefully to match both variety, situation and agronomic need.”
Illustrating his point with trial evidence from Agrii’s extensive R&D network, Rodger Shireff explains that foliar disease control with fluquinconazole seed treatment ahead of a range of spring spray programmes can raise first wheat yields by an average 0.5t/ha, as well as giving much needed flexibility to T0 and T1 spray timings. What’s more, the autumn growth boost it gives can increase the gain to 0.75 t/ha with uncompetitive varieties where grass weeds are a problem.
At the same time, Redigo Deter has proved invaluable in raising first wheat yields by well over 1.0 t/ha regardless of sowing date. And Latitude treatment has been equally valuable for both second wheats and wheats after barley.
“Our trial work also shows improved establishment including better root and shoot growth from Take-Off seed treatment,” he added. “And we see very useful responses to manganese seed dressings in many cases.
“So, just like T0, T1 and T2, significant improvements are available from combining crop protection treatments with both growth manipulating and nutritional inputs at T(-1). In the same way too, variety, plant population (seed rate) and conditions (seedbed) should be fundamental parts of the decision-making.”
Rodger Shirreff sees more joined-up thinking like this as essential in crop management if growers are to push through the famous production plateau for consistent performance gains.
He stresses too that T(-1) is the only opportunity to tackle seed-borne pest and diseases, as well as take-all. It also provides winter cereals with the best foundation for aphid-borne virus control; valuable early season foliar disease control; extra protection against slugs; useful improvements in weed competitiveness; and a timely boost to establishment and early growth and development.
“We shouldn’t forget either the insurance it offers us against weather-enforced spraying delays and disruptions,” he adds. “Nor the protection it can allow us to give our soils from sprayer traffic damage in poor conditions. Plus, of course, it’s the certainly the most highly targeted and in many cases also the most cost-effective agrochemical application at our disposal.
“All of which means the first question everyone should be asking themselves ahead of the coming season is ‘what will we be doing at T(-1)’ ?”