By Darren Hefty

Comparing soybean seed treatments available from one retailer to the next is like comparing apples and oranges in many cases. There is a lot of difference, even though the price points are usually fairly similar: $15/unit for a “complete” seed treatment and $5/unit for a base package of some sort. The question is, “What is IN your seed treatment?” Then a follow up should be, “What does EACH COMPONENT do for my farm?”


This part of the seed treatment package is often considered by farmers to be the most important. The odds are pretty high of a disease impacting a crop at germination or within a month afterwards. Most seed treatments utilize 2, 3, or 4 different fungicides. The focus is on finding fungicides with systemic movement in the plant, as well as using multiple modes of action to fight various diseases. The one component that you can compare across most companies seed treatment offer is metalaxl or mefenoxam. This is the long-time industry standard for pythium control and likely the most widely used fungicide on seed. However, some companies are cutting the rate on this one so far that its performance may not be satisfactory. Compare rates that various companies are using, and you’ll see what I’m talking about.


The primary insecticide used in soybean seed treatments is almost always from the neonicotinoid family. The active ingredient in Poncho, Gaucho, or Cruiser is used, and they all work fairly similarly. The difference you’ll notice will be in the rate of product one dealer or company will use compared to another. Expect good control of seed- and seedling-attacking insects such as wireworms and early season control of bean leaf beetles. However, expect only suppression of late-season bugs like aphids.


Soybeans need more than 5 pounds of nitrogen per bushel and can only produce up to 70% of their own nitrogen needs. It’s SO much cheaper to add a good inoculant to make that possible than add commercial nitrogen fertilizer. When inoculant only costs a couple bucks and gives back even one bushel of yield, that’s a 5-to-1 return on investment. There are two big differences here that can make you money without necessarily costing you a penny.

  1. Treat the seed as close to planting as possible. Even with the addition of an extender for the inoculant, the bacterial survival goes down the longer the time between treatment and planting.
  2. The different strains of rhizobia and the number of rhizobia on each seed do vary between treatments and seed dealers. Ask which products they are using.

Beneficial Microbes

There are a number of different natural or biological products on the market, and some have worked well. QuickRoots is one of the top sellers and has been out for a long time. Nutri-Cycle ST is another we’ve been working with in our internal research program that has shown enough promise to go on a large number of acres this year. Compatibility with the other things like fungicides in your seed treatment is the biggest concern. Keep in mind, though, that fungicides only affect fungal products, not bacterial treatments. For example, inoculant is bacteria, so the odds are extremely slim that a fungicide would affect the live bacteria.

Polymers, Colorants, Drying Agents, etc.

These components are in pretty much every seed treatment and impact the handling characteristics. It’s hard to make a correlation to yield with them, but they are important nonetheless.