Jeff Weber Seed Treatment Lead — Eastern Region, Nufarm Americas

Wheat growers in the Eastern half of the United States may be tempted to cheat on preparation for their winter wheat crop. That temptation is especially strong with low wheat prices. But cutting back on a necessary agronomic practice is false economy even for a crop that is oft regarded as a stepchild. If you are going to make an effort to plant a wheat crop, at least give it a fighting chance to perform up to its genetic potential. 

Growers often plant their winter wheat as soon as they can after soybean harvest which is frequently before the Hessian fly-free date. As a result, the new crop is subject to considerable insect pressure. The most cost-effective control for Hessian fly and other seedling pests is seed treatment. There are many seed treatment products available that contain an insecticide, but not all are equally effective. When ordering seed treatment, the grower needs to understand what products are being applied. 

Some are for suppression; others are systemic and provide coverage for up to 45 days. When wheat is planted early the new crop needs longer-acting protection. Some varieties have better Hessian fly resistance than others, but early stage seedling protection will help the crop get off to a strong start. It will be healthier and in better condition to become well established before winter. 

The best seed treatment product and application rate is a function of what variety is being planted, what pests are a threat and the local planting environment. If growers could know upcoming weather conditions selecting seed treatment products would be a lot simpler. The best application rate varies depending on the pest threats. Growers and treatment applicators should work together to select products and rates. It is a mistake to assume that all treatments are the same. 

Wireworms are an evolving problem. Sooner or later we believe wireworms will become a widespread problem, so it’s important to continue to evaluate fields to determine their presence and pressure. In areas where wireworms already have a significant presence, higher seed-applied insecticide application rates are justified. As a minimum, all wheat seed should be treated with a fungicide at a recommended rate. Even in situations where it may be tempting to cut inputs to save on costs, cutting back on seed treatment doesn’t pay.