By Tom Driscoll, Director of NFU Foundation and Conservation Policy

Beginning farmers who grow grains know that the time between planting and emergence in the field can be perilous for their crops. Pathogens in the soil or on seeds can overtake or impair the growth of a seedling, damaging yields and – ultimately – profitability. Fortunately, pathogen load can be managed through crop rotation, residue and volunteer management, and careful selection of appropriate varieties. All farmers are likely interested in controlling pathogen load, but farmers near the start of their career may be especially interested in increasing the likelihood of a good harvest, as they are generally in more precarious financial territory than more established producers.

To further protect seeds and seedlings in the ground at this vulnerable time, farmers can purchase seeds that have been treated with chemicals that repel pathogens and other threats. However, these treatments can increase the cost of seeds and may affect soil health or exacerbate resistance issues over time. South Dakota State University Extension offers a free guide, Managing Crop Diseases with Seed Treatments, that beginning farmers can consult if they are considering treatments for their first few seed purchases. The guide identifies particular circumstances under which seed treatments may be especially useful, such as planting in ground that recently came out of reserve, and breaks discussion of various treatments by crop. The guide may be helpful to beginning farmers as they work with agronomists, as an independent source without a financial stake in selling treated seed.

What are your considerations when making seed purchases as a beginning farmer? Have you considered or used treated seed? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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