Field reportsMonarchs

Stewardship Practices for Planting Treated Seeds

There are a host of stewardship practices deployed by farmers throughout the year that boost crop health and yield while also protecting monarchs and other pollinators. One of those practices that bears particular attention during planting season is the proper management of treated seeds. The Guide to Seed Treatment Stewardship provides guidelines for managing treated seeds and explains that seed treatments deliver a precise application that shields seeds from the insects and diseases that exist in the soil during early developmental stages. This protection ensures that the plant has a greater opportunity to grow a strong root system, which is the foundation of a healthy, productive plant. 

Many of the practices we recommend to protect pollinators when using pesticides are also applicable when handling treated seeds. BeSure!, an industry-wide effort to protect pollinators when applying neonicotinoid insecticides on farms, also promotes best management practices. Caydee Savinelli, the pollinator and stewardship team lead at Syngenta, a member of the Growing Matters coalition behind the BeSure! effort, outlined those tips for farmers handling treated seeds on the Growing Matters podcast.

Among the practices mentioned by Caydee, as well as detailed in the Guide to Seed Treatment Stewardship, are:

  1. Follow the label directions for proper handling and storage practices for a pesticide treated product.
  2. Be aware of wind direction and speed and the presence of foraging pollinators, hive locations, flowering habitats including weeds and other plants at field edges or nearby, and aquatic habitats.
  3. Properly dispose of treated seed and empty seed containers.
  4. Ensure no treated seed enters the commodity grain channels.

One of the practices many producers implement to reduce the risk of exposure from treated seed dust during planting is the use of fluency or lubricating agents. As we have documented before, seed lubricating agents, such as talc, graphite and a combination of the two have been used for many years to improve seed plantability by minimizing moisture and reducing friction. Talc and graphite work well, however, new products recently introduced to the market show at least equivalent seeding efficacy but also reduce seed dust at planting, providing greater protection for pollinators. 

Additionally, planting equipment may have been designed with dust reducing technology or aftermarket deflectors can be installed which also mitigate seed dust being released into the air. Farmers are encouraged to check with their local retailer and/or equipment supplier for more information on fluency agents and available equipment technology. 

During the planting season, we encourage every farmer to have a stewardship plan that includes the handling of treated seeds. Doing so can increase the health and yield of your crop as well as protect invaluable pollinators and monarch butterflies. 

Where are the Monarchs Now?

The monarchs began leaving the overwintering sites more than three weeks ago and are now being reported in Texas in good numbers. The departure from Mexico is a long process that usually ends by the first of April. Pictures taken as recently as March 19 show that tens of thousands of monarchs still remained in the vicinity of El Rosario, the largest overwintering area in Mexico. Follow their progress at Journey North.