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Benefits of Different Types of Seed Coatings for Different Seed Varieties

August 15, 2023

Seed coating technology in agriculture is not new. Coatings, encrusting, dry powder mixing, and other applications have been used to protect seeds (and seedlings) and boost yields in many types of agricultural row crops for hundreds of years.

All that said, the latest innovations and most advanced technologies to be developed today for making farmers’ lives easier can come as news to many growers. There are many different types of seed coatings that bring a wide range of advantages— and not just for delivering pesticide/disease protection or easing planting uniformity.

Some new and developing seed coating technologies applied to many commercial seeds today include micronutrient enhancement, moisture protection, moisture enhancement, soil microbe enhancement, and much more— and some farmers know nothing about them, but could benefit from them!

All these benefits can very much depend on the type of seed coating being used: whether it’s pelleting, encrusting, or another type of technology. What are the different types of seed coatings? What are their benefits? What types of seed coatings for different seed varieties can be expected? Read on to learn more about the benefits of different types of seed coatings for different seed varieties.

Pelleted seed

Across many seed types and industries, pelleted seed is the type of seed coating you are most likely to find and that is most widely used. This is because pelleted seed brings the biggest package of growing advantages while also being compatible with the majority of seed varieties and types.

Seeds that tend to be small- to medium-sized, and not very uniform, can come in pelleted form— such as sugar beet seed. Pelleting can change seed volume and size, which can improve seed uniformity; thus, seeds are sown much more easily through agricultural transplanting or sowing equipment without getting stuck or misplaced.

The materials used for pelleting can simply be inert organic materials to help change the seed size, but can also include bioenhancers like microbes, fungicides, or bactericides to protect seeds and seedlings once they emerge while boosting nutrient uptake. Seed pelleting materials can also directly include micronutrients to enhance seedling health and viability, too.

Encrusted seed

Encrusted seed, or seed encrusting, is a similar seed coating or “bioenhancement” to the pelleting option, though it doesn’t add as much volume or contain as many materials as pelleting. A powder, binder, and then subsequent coating are applied to each seed.

Seeds that require singulated planting, and no post-planting thinning, are best suited for encrusted treatment. These include large-seeded flowers (like sunflowers), brassica crops (such as cabbage and broccoli), grasses, canola, and more. Research states (and suggests) that encrusting helps raise the success rates of both germination and seedling vigor; it can also help protect the viability of seeds against early applications of herbicides, which is sometimes necessary for seed success but may also incur some seed damage and loss.

Encrusted seed, like pelleted seed, is also an excellent medium for delivering nitrogen-fixing rhizobacteria for legume main season crops and cover crops: such as soy, red clover, peas, alfalfa, and more.

Dry powder coated seed

This approach to seed coating can be considered a traditional way of coating seeds, though it still manages to be an effective way to boost seed germination and seedling health. All it involves is taking a dry powder made of desired biomaterials or bio-enhancements and mixing it in manually with select seed for planting.

Dry powder coated seed (or dry powder coating) is used almost exclusively for adding bacterial or fungal treatments for seed protection only. The most common type of materials in dry powders are talc or graphite.

Film coated seed

The most affordable yet still very effective seed coating technology, also called seed dressing or film coating, is film coated seed— what is often indicated when seed coating is generally referred to. This is when only a thin coating, or film, is applied to the surface of the seed. It can also be applied before or after pelleting or encrusting.

Film coating does very little to change the size or volume of the seed for improving planting or seed uniformity. Instead, it is designed to enhance seed value with many other benefits— and one of these main practical values is reducing issues with seed dust off, which can happen when seed pelleting or encrusting is used instead. Practically no dust off occurs with seed coating. Film coatings can be found on or applied to all manner of seed types and categories throughout the industry.

Film coatings may also contain bright color pigments that improve planting accuracy. These colors, like bright pink or green, make them more visible to the farmer— while making them less appetizing-looking to animals and birds that may consume them. Like pelleted and encrusted seeds as well, film coated seeds can contain protective fungicides or bactericides for an added seedling-shielding effect.

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seeds with seed coatings being planted by hand in soil

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