Whenever someone says they enjoy going to one of the casinos in Kansas to gamble, the temptation is to ask them if they would like to farm. Producing agricultural commodities is an enterprise where you can do everything right and lose. The best a producer can do is stay up to date with the latest information/technology and opt for what makes sense for their operation. Information provided by K-State and private companies provides an almost limitless number of possibilities, especially if your bank account is limitless. Producers have to perform what economists would term a cost-benefit analysis. What is the risk and what is the reward for using or not using a given technology or practice? Wheat seed treatments fall into this category.
While it seems backwards in a way, inputs such as fertilizer and pesticides are more critical under adverse not ideal conditions. This is where the cost-benefit analysis comes into play. Public and private information now stresses the cost of what can be done, its potential yield benefit, and how that translates into dollars. In the 1990s and early 2000s, except when you were sure of a severe pest problem or were producing seed wheat, presenters would explain the benefits of insecticides and fungicides (seed and foliar treatments) and proceed to say that while the treatment was very effective, the gain in yield or quality normally wouldn’t pay for the treatment. Flash forward to today and recommendations have changed for two reasons. First, chemical and seed companies decided it was better to lower prices since selling more pesticide at a lower price was better than selling little at a higher price. Second, it is more expensive to produce a crop and it is worth more at the elevator. Fifteen years ago, some pesticide treatments would have cost the equivalent of five to seven bushels of wheat. Today it may only be one to two bushels. The gain is worth more than the cost.
A lot of wheat has already been drilled in the area and south of Great Bend, there are wheat fields already well-emerged. This week, Kansas Agricultural Statistics reported wheat planting through Sept. 21 at 17 percent. Over the last seven days, the pace of wheat planting has picked up. It’s still not too late to treat wheat seed with a fungicide/insecticide. A producer can purchase treated seed or have bin run seed treated professionally. If you are set up properly and legally, you can treat the seed yourself. Bin run seed with a chance of common bunt and loose smut would benefit greatly if there is concern regarding aphids, wireworms, false wireworms, and even Hessian fly for 14 days after emergence. The level and spectrum of control is a function of the different treatments. The most expensive treatment isn’t necessarily required or even the best option. While we are almost to the recommended planting date for wheat here, keep in mind that seed applied insecticides are often of more benefit with early planting.
One word of caution, treating wheat seed results in grazing restrictions with many products so it is important to check the label. Some are short duration while some may prohibit grazing period.
Dr. Victor L. Martin is the agriculture instructor/coordinator for Barton Community College. He can be reached at 620-792-9207, ext. 207.