You may have heard the word “panacea” used during a discussion about folk remedies or ancient medicine. The word panacea comes from the Greek goddess of universal remedy and refers to any remedy that people claim cures all pain and disease. A panacea can literally treat and/or cure any ailment, legend has it.

Seed treatments are a great line of defence against diseases. Using a seed treatment can result in healthier plants that are protected from insect pressure and are free of disease. That said, a seed treatment is not a panacea against diseases, even though it’s sometimes tempting to view them as such.

Case in point: I sometimes hear the sentiment that a seed treatment can be used as a substitute for getting seed tested. This reflects a misunderstanding of how seed treatments work.

A seed treatment can protect a healthy seed from diseases, but if that seed is already diseased, a seed treatment should not be relied upon to mitigate that. This year, smut is a big problem in Western Canada. No seed treatment on the market will totally eliminate it. While a seed treatment can certainly help give you some peace of mind if you have a serious smut problem, you should ultimately adjust your seed source or, if that’s not an option, change your expectations for the what the seed treatment will do.

It’s important to know that:

  • Seed treatments provide a specific window of protection. They protect the seed and the plant at the very beginning of its life, usually over the first few weeks. Once the plant grows and emerges from the soil and this window is over, it becomes more vulnerable.
  • Specific active ingredients only work against certain pathogens. Know what seed treatment you’re using and adjust accordingly.
  • What rate was your treatment applied at? There is only so much space on the surface of the seed for application purposes. A low application rate may not be enough to control specific diseases.
  • What varieties did you plant? Some varieties of seed are more susceptible to disease than others. Your seed treatment is likely not the culprit.

In most instances, there are a few different reasons as to why a crop suffers from diseases, and some that can’t be treated with a seed treatment. Work with your local SeedGrowth rep to understand the benefits but also the limitations of seed treatments. There’s a reason that panaceas are the subject of myth and legend — they don’t actually exist.

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