5 Ways Seed Treatments Support Farming in a Changing Climate

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crop rows green landscape

The world is getting warmer. Over the past 150 years, the planet has become about 1° C (2° F) hotter, but the rate is getting faster, more than doubling since the 1980s.1 Agriculture is already experiencing consequences from this warming, with changes to growing seasons, more intense weather patterns and pests emerging in new geographies. Seed treatments are an important tool to help farmers combat these issues, and they also help contribute to a smaller environmental footprint for farming. Here’s how.

1. Seed treatments help improve seed resiliency.

A changing climate requires resiliency—from both farmers and the crops they plant. Uncertainty will always be a part of farming, but facing climate change, farmers have to be more prepared than ever for the unexpected. Seed treatments offer a layer of protection against the variabilities of a season. If weather requires planting into cooler or wetter soils than a farmer might normally prefer, fungicide seed treatments help protect against diseases. If a warm winter failed to kill off last year’s infestation of pests in the soil, an insecticide seed treatment can help keep a developing root system safe from damaging feeding. Because seed treatments are often applied in combinations, farmers can incorporate multiple types of protection onto a single seed, helping them defend against a range of possible threats.

2. Seed treatments can ease the effects of changing field pressures.

As the climate shifts, so do disease and pest pressures. Threats that used to be confined to certain climates will migrate into new areas if the weather proves hospitable. Certain diseases or pests might thrive in areas where the soil is wet for extended periods or taking longer to warm up in the spring. Seed treatment approaches tend to be flexible and customizable to the needs of the farm, so recipes can be adjusted from year to year to help farmers address the most pressing concerns on their acres, including new and emerging threats.

Climate change can cause diseases and pests to migrate to new geographies where the conditions are hospitable for them to grow and thrive. Seed treatments help protect against these kinds of changing threats.

3. Seed treatments help optimize yield from existing farmland.

By protecting seed early in the season, seed treatments help crops get off to a strong start. When young plants are protected from pests and diseases and can develop healthier root systems capable of accessing more nutrients, stand establishment is stronger and crops are more vigorous. From these healthier young plants there’s better potential for season-long crop health, leading to better yields. The more productive we can make every acre of existing farmland, the less we have to convert other landscapes to farming use. This means we can keep more trees, grasslands, wetlands and other diverse environments that help absorb carbon and mitigate the effects of climate change. Seed treatments are just one of many inputs and practices that help farmers produce more from every field, but they are an important contributor.

4. Seed treatments can reduce trips through the field.

Farmers are active players in helping to mitigate climate change, whether they’re modifying their practices to reduce emissions or capturing CO2 with cover crops. Seed treatments can be a good complement to these kinds of climate-smart actions. Depending on the ingredients in a seed treatment mixture, plants could be protected for several weeks after planting. This can reduce the need for farmers to do an additional pass in their fields to apply crop protection products during the early stages of crop growth. Also, by getting plants off to a healthier start, there may be less need to apply rescue treatments in the field as the season goes on. Fewer applications and trips through the field can have a number of environmental benefits, from reducing emissions and soil compaction, to saving on transport of products.

5. Seed treatments help protect the seeds that produce more seeds.

Some crops are grown specifically to produce the seed from which farmers then grow their own crops. Research shows that climate change can profoundly impact both productivity and quality of resulting seed. High levels of CO2 in the air, temperature extremes, drought and excessive rain can negatively affect seed composition, plant reproductive processes, flowering and seed yield.2 When it comes to seed production, seed treatments can help in two ways. First, seed treatments can help protect multiplier crops, keeping plants healthy and vital and defending against adverse conditions. Second, if the yield and quality of production seed is compromised by climate issues, seed treatments may be instrumental in protecting the harvest of seed multipliers, ensuring the seeds that make it to a farmer’s field have the best possibility of reaching their yield potential.

Seed treatments give farmers a vital tool to adapt to new challenges in agriculture brought on by climate change. Seed treatments help farmers protect seeds, developing roots and seedlings from more extreme conditions and shifting pest and disease threats. They also support farmers in other climate-friendly management practices, helping them make fewer trips through the field and use fewer resources. With sustainable solutions like these and the dedication of farmers, crops and the environment can be on a thriving path.

1 Lindsey, Rebecca and LuAnn Dahlman. “Climate Change: Global Temperature” NOAA. January 18, 2023.

2 Maity, Aniruddha, Debashis Paul, Amrit Lamichaney, et al. “Climate Change Impacts on Seed Production and Quality: Current Knowledge, Implications, and Mitigation Strategies.” Seed Science and Technology 51 no. 1 (march 2023): 65-96.