With the current drought monitor forecast predicting a warmer, drier than normal winter, spring and summer in Minnesota, the weather will likely allow soybean producers to plant earlier this year.
Early planting increases the probability of high soybean yields, but also increases the potential for insects and disease damage. Given the anticipated lower commodity prices, growers will need to consider the use of seed treatments in order to limit the risk of crop damage. However, according to many soybean extension specialists, seed treatments only work IF the pathogen or insect is a factor early in plant growth.
Another seed treatment risk has developed, especially through the use of Neonicotinoid Insecticide (Neonics). Dr. Ada Szczepaniec, Extension Entomologist at South Dakota State University, released a webinar last July where she presented data that indicated the use of Neonics as a seed treatment shifted the arthropod balance. In a soybean system, spider mite percentages increased while the soybean aphid percentages decreased. This did not mean spider mites became a problem. However, if the system experienced drought, spider mite populations increased enough to significantly reduce soybean yield.
What does this mean to you? It depends. If insects are not prevalent, consider not including Neonics in seed treatment. However, if insect levels are known to exist in sufficient, problematic levels, using Neonic seed treatments could be a good option. When using Neonic seed treatments, be sure to include spider mite monitoring in your scouting program, especially if it looks to be dry during the growing season.
David Kee is Director of Research at Minnesota Soybean. Contact him at email@example.com or at 888-896-9678.