Deciding whether or not to apply seed treatment to cover crop seed is no different from deciding to treat any seed. In every situation, the answer is the same: it depends.
Investing in crop protection products is similar to deciding what insurance to buy. Use critical thinking and be aware of what is needed. Compare the cost of protection to the value of potential losses. Also, consider how pest pressures may be changing. Some growers may simply decide that they need it all and apply as much product as possible just to be safe. This is like buying insurance simply because it is available. If you live on a hill, you don’t need flood insurance.
Others will look at yield data, indicating that seed treatments provide a 3 to 5 percent average yield increase, and decide there is not enough benefit to justify the cost. This approach ignores that averages hide the extremes. Assume seed treatments result in a 3.5 percent yield increases for four consecutive years. Then in the fifth year, crops suffer a 12 percent pest-related yield loss. Taken together, the total five-year yield advantage averages only 0.5 percent. For most farmers and their bankers, the cost of seed treatment to avoid a 12 percent yield loss is a worthwhile expense.
Evaluate local conditions. We know different geographies have different risks. Don’t buy more insurance than you need to protect your yield. If wireworms, for example, are not a problem in your area, you need not apply wireworm protection. Work with your chemical supplier to select those products that are effective against your known risks. When local history indicates an emerging problem, five-year averages may not account for the new threat. Be a good steward of both your resources and the environment when making crop protection decisions. Over-applying chemicals just to be safe is not a sustainable, long-term decision.
So how does this all relate to cover crops? You plant a cover crop because it will bring value by enhancing your soil and generally benefiting the environment. Protect your cover crop investment the same way you protect your investment in any other crop. Be a steward of your resources and protect your seed against the risks present in your local environment