The seed treatment business has exploded over the past several years with the introduction of new treatments, particularly in soybeans. And now the method to treat soybeans has changed to keep up with the new treatment options.

Bayer CropScience recently introduced its new On Demand seed treatment system designed for the seed retailer market. On Demand uses a computerized system from large commercial treatment plants that has been downsized for a small retail outlet.

“It is a game changer for us as far as a seed treater,” reports Jaco Van Der Westhuizen, Bayer CropScience strategic equipment marketing. “It has taken hand mixing out of [treating]. Until now, [local retailers] had to take all chemicals and hand mix them into 60-gal. tanks.”

Closed system

On Demand is a completely closed system with no open chemical containers. Retailers using the new system slide special blue containers with chemicals prefilled into place. The operator scans a bar code on each container, and the computer takes over. A recipe for each treatment is preloaded into the computer to reduce error. Then each customer’s order is filled according to a due date.

“A farmer can be in a tractor and order seed treatments from a smartphone,” Van Der Westhuizen explains. “He dials in on the website, the dealer’s page, and orders the variety, recipe and pickup date. The retailer comes in the next day, sees the orders and handles them.”

This system helps retailers fill orders quickly, which is important when inoculants are applied to soybeans. The short shelf life of inoculants doesn’t allow application at a commercial level; local seed treaters or farmers must apply them.

The On Demand system has an atomizer for applying treatments. The atomizer precisely applies the many products that now go onto seed, including fungicides, insecticides, nematicides and polymers.  “As long as it is done with very precise application, you can get [multiple treatments] all on seed and the seed will flow through a planter and plant just fine,” says Keith Vodrazka, Bayer CropScience product manager.

When the seed treatment is complete, the system produces a printout for the grower that shows the products applied, rates, dates and other information. “The grower has the assurance that the right components are put on the seed the right way,” Vodrazka adds. This is important because seed is expensive.

Safety features

Retailers investing in On Demand benefit from its key safety features, including a lower risk of exposure to chemicals. The closed system reduces that risk.

Another safety factor is a reduction in mixing and treatment errors. Seed companies approve the recipes for treatments and those recipes are already in the system’s computer. The On Demand system knows correct densities of the products. If the system detects a mistake, an alert is sounded before a batch of seed is mixed. 

Van Der Westhuizen says the price of On Demand is similar to prices for other automated seed treatment systems.