Conventional Seed Treatments And R.O.I

Why Treat Your Seed?

In my earlier post I covered what might be available as a seed treatment for a certified organic grower.  The reason I took the time to do this was that a client of mine found themselves in this exact situation where they heard me touting the returns that other clients of mine were getting by treating seeds before planting started like those you can find here:  And, he thought that by virtue of being NOP compliant that he was precluded from treating his seeds.

I realized that I haven’t really gone into the reasons why treating your seeds is something that is desirable in the first place, so here is my “primer” on what I’ve found out over the last couple of years of working with this technology.

High Return On Investment

I was listening to a podcast by a grower into promoting nutrient dense crops and he made the statement that the highest ROI you can get for fertilizing annuals is with conventional commercial seed treatments.  Although he is a commercial grower of salad greens and tomatoes, he didn’t distinguish what kind of crop he was talking about, and he didn’t elaborate on “why”, so I will do some reasoned speculation here to explain why.

Little Waste

One of the reasons for the high returns on investment is that it takes very little material to cover the seeds that will be employed across an entire acre.  If you are going to broadcast chemicals or biologicals across an entire acre there is a lot of soil that will never interact directly with a plant’s roots — even once the crop is reaching full maturity.

That is what led to the idea of “banding” fertilizer.  Banding is where someone puts a smaller sized, concentrated, strip of fertilizer, usually just outside of the active root zone of a crop and lets the plants’ roots extend into the zone of concentrated fertilization.  The idea is to maximize the amount of fertilizer that gets taken up by the crop in the given year that the fertilizer is put down and to minimize nutrient tie-up that happens with charged particles of fertilizer interact and combine with oppositely charged particles in the soil profile.  The resultant compounds are insoluble in water and unavailable to a plant’s roots.

Treating the seed with an element of fertility is an “extreme” version of banding.  To the extend that the fertility can be absorbed into the seed’s shell or coat, there is little to no waste as all the nutrition can be utilized by the seed during the germination process.

The amount of product used can be as little as 4 to 8 ounces of liquid to cover the seed that would cover an acre, or the approximate size of a football field. Imagine spreading half a can of soda across an entire football field and getting the product evenly spaced enough to be able to effect each plant in that field.  Now you understand the power and rational of treating your seeds.