Seedcare Institute interviews - Chad Vest
Interview of Chad Vest, Seedcare Specialist Manager Midwest US Highlights from the 2018 soybean season in US
Can you talk to me about the season status of Soybean in the US?
“The season status of the US and most notably, the upper Midwest where over 80% of the Soybeans are planted, is behind. With much of the Soybean treatments being applied (>80%) downstream at the Seed Dealer facilities, it is clear this will be a condensed season due to the limited amount of Soybeans that were treated in advance of the season and as a result the cold conditions. Planned soybean acres in the US look to be higher than what was planted in 2017 and are predicted to be over 90.5 million acres in total, which if it comes true will surpass domestic production of corn for the first time. At this time, I would estimate less than 20% of the application facilities downstream have begun the treating season with historic averages well above 50%.”
What makes treating soybeans complicated?
“The treatment season can have many complications in the US, including seed supply, the quality of seed, along with general application difficulties with the season, such as cool temperatures and delivery logistics. A vast majority of the downstream applicators in the US are located either in unheated seed storage facilities or out in the elements, so adequate temperatures and potentially dry weather are need to complete the process. Logistics can play a key role in the overall process to treat Soybeans due to companies with multiple locations that have centralized treating facilities. In those cases, a late start to the season can delay delivery of treated seed and put additional stress on the facility to complete the desired volumes of seed to fill grower demands. Generally speaking, the actual downstream treatment process can be complicated due to various seed size, slurry rates, equipment configurations, and the continually changing environmental conditions that can affect the ability of the seed treatment to adhere and properly dry on the Soybean surface.”
What are the stages of soybean treatment?
“In the US downstream market, we have a vast array of equipment configurations that can either simplify or hinder the applicator experience of placing our Seedcare product on the soybean seed. With all these configurations, we can break the process down into three key stages: first the measurement stage where seed and the chemical slurry are separately measured. Mass flow meters and seed wheels are both example of technologically advanced tools used to complete this stage. Next is the stage of applying the specific chemical amount to the specific seed amount. This stage is called ‘the primary application stage’ and facilities with an atomizer head often proprietary to the equipment manufacturer these atomizer heads reduce droplets to a fog-like size, ensuring the most uniform coverage possible onto the soybean. Coordination is critical in this stage and the newest applicator technologies address this very effectively by bringing the chemical and seed together through new advancements in automation innovations. The third stage is what we like to refer to as ‘the secondary application process’. It takes the soybean bean through a rotating drum approximately four feet in diameter and 6-10ft long, and the bean is covered in an end product with the desired treatment at a specific dryness for final product packaging before delivery to growers.”
What can you say about the evolution of automatization? (for farmers)
“I see various machines that lack the necessities for a uniformly treated finished product. The atomizer and the drum are highly critical components of the treatment process. I firmly believe that without these two components the application process cannot be managed with the level of predictability required or with the confidence to ensure the Soybean is effectively treated. This is the case not only for coverage, which is often the first determination of quality, but also the proper application of the agronomically significant active ingredients on that seed. Larger droplet sizes seen in the absence of an atomizer in the primary application process limits the amount of effective coverage in that stage and relying more on the drum to complete the process. Relying more on the drum lends itself to a larger impact of environmental factors, such as temperature and humidity. The atomizer is critical in the predicable outcome of the application process as we see it today in the US.”
What challenges do your clients have, and how do you tackle them?
“One of the largest challenges facing application is what I have previously mentioned changing environmental conditions throughout the season and working to aesthetically standardize the way a treated soybean looks over varying seed sizes and varieties. Secondly, our clients and their customers demand the best agronomic performance, ensuring an effectively treated soybean is a critical part of our clients’ success with Seedcare products. The in-season logistics of delivering treated seeds to the farm and pretreatment of the soybeans for delivery are equally critical and highly dependent on environmental conditions and the timely nature of the season.”
What diseases and insects do farmers have to deal with?
“Depending on the geography, farmers in the US deal with a variety of different soil-borne diseases and below or above ground insects. Some of the most damaging diseases in the US on soybeans include Pythium, Phytophthora, Fusarium, and Rhizoctonia. Their impact is dependent heavily on soil temperatures, moisture, and the overall presence of the disease in the soil. Insects are equally as diverse with bean leaf beetles, seed corn maggots, wireworms, and soybean aphids being some of the most destructive. We have also our top performing solution against Soybean Cyst Nematods (SCN) under product Clariva branded product line.”
What are your main key challenges during this season?
“The willingness of growers to plant early presents some added challenges. During the early season, the impact of diseases and insects presents a large risk to the planted crop. In recent years, the trend has been to plant soybeans earlier to allow for the crop to capture the most sunlight possible. This has allowed for higher yields across most of the soybean growing regions of the US. With this heavily adopted cultural practice of planting earlier comes added risk; risk that can be lessened with the use of quality Seedcare products. Because of delayed planting in the US, the likelihood of a larger number of soybean acres planted into cool wet soils has increased. This itself increases the overall risk taken with low-cost, generic-based, inferior seed treatment products.”
What are the main highlights of this spring treating season?
“The main highlights of this season have yet to be determined as we have just gotten underway with most of the country well behind. With the potential increase in planted soybeans across the nation, I am sure many successes will emerge in the tightened application window for our customers. Syngenta Seedcare success in the Midwest has been in effectively training our field staff and customers on the benefits of a quality Seedcare product in response to the introduction and misconceptions of many low cost inferior generics that have recently entered the downstream soybean market in the US. The focus on quality application has also been at the forefront with the most recent 20 million dollar expansion of The Seedcare Institute in Stanton, MN, expanding Syngenta’s capability to perform needed trainings and provide our customers with needed services.”