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What is Seed Coating?

What is Seed Coating?

May 26, 2023

Farmers of all backgrounds have used many agricultural tools at their disposal for improving their bottom line. These tools address many factors: disease, moisture, drought, soil health, weed pressure, germination, seedling health, and so much more. They can include nutrient inputs, pesticide or herbicide applications, crop rotations, cover crops, and beyond.

Seed coatings of some kind have been used for over a century (if not longer) as tools to address all the above. Today, startling innovations have been made to modernize and make seed coating even more effective and capable of doing more for farmer success than ever before— but what is seed coating?

A distinct category from products like treated or pelleted seeds, read on to learn more about what seed coating is and how it benefits farmers of all kinds.

Protection for your forage grasses and turf

Growers and landscapers alike know the importance of uniform germination when it comes to forage grasses and turf. For these plantings to be effective— a carpet of green that outcompetes weeds and remains lush under all conditions— it all starts right at the seed, and seed coatings can be integral for forage and turf seeds to get the proper start.

Seed coating technology boosts seed success in the face of all natural challenges: soil depletion, lack of moisture, and even excess moisture. But even under the perfect circumstances, not all seeds are created equal: coatings ensure that each seed gets what it needs, optimizing the chances that less viable seeds sync up with stronger ones for better uniformity, more beautiful turf, and higher forage yields for livestock needs.

Enhancement for stronger, healthier seedlings— and crop yields

Seed coating technology of course applies to crop seeds as well: for all the same benefits and reasons. Whether a main season crop, alfalfa, or legume cover crop, coatings of all kinds are designed for the same purposes and ends, which are to help further both seed germination and stronger seedling success.

This can be an especially beneficial tool for both organic and regenerative growers. Producers in these categories face greater yield and profit adversity due to higher limitations on inputs and applications they can use compared to non-certified or conventional growers— and this can mean facing bigger threats to seedling success and their bottom line. Thankfully, many seed coating technologies meet organic and regenerative standards and help them in production areas where their input use may be limited. 

Providing seeds with necessary nutrients right from the start

Forage, turf, and crops of all types fight their hardest battle right at the beginning of their life cycle: when sprouting as seeds. They need to be quick to develop robust root systems that in turn can dig deep and bring up the proper nutrients for foliar, flowering, fruiting, and overall seedling success.

With help from coatings, seeds and seedlings can have this step of their life stage fully enhanced. Coating technologies are designed to provide pivotal micronutrients for the seed germination phase: assisting root system growth so nutrient availability for each seed is amplified. In this way, seedlings put energy towards sprouting and new above-ground growth rather than scavenging for nutrients—which translates to more rapid maturity and even germination.

Replenishment of soil life to amplify crop nutrition

Seedlings of all types— whether main season crops, forage, or turf— require the right cocktail of micronutrients for optimal success. In both farming and nature much of this also depends on adequate soil health which can be addressed and supported with seed coating.

Alongside the proper micronutrient set, certain seed coatings can also include soil health enhancers like rhizobia bacteria: a soil microbe required for nitrogen fixation to take place in legume main season and cover crops. These coatings can be instrumental not only for high crop outcomes and yields in legumes, but also for maintaining adequate levels of natural soil nitrogen for future crops and rotations following legume plantings. In the long run, this can also help farmers cut down on expensive nitrogen inputs and costs.

Retaining moisture around seeds to amplify germination

As weather patterns and rainfall become increasingly less predictable, farmers need all the tools they can get to provide uniform moisture for seeds while keeping irrigation costs low— one of the most critical factors for successful germination rates. This is where seed coating technologies come in.

Drought continues to be an ongoing or even worsening issue for producers in many regions. Seed coatings can provide materials that, paired with the right irrigation methods, can help draw moisture closer to seed surfaces and keep it there, even in a wide variety of conditions— including lack of substantial rainfall. Nothing affects seed and seedling success more than sufficient moisture; seed coatings can help.

Protecting seeds from excessive moisture and disease

While in some regions a lack of moisture or rainfall threatens seed success, the opposite can be true in other regions. Rainfall and humidity bring their own perils to seed viability in the form of heightened risks of fungal or bacterial disease.

In the same vein, seed coating technology addresses issues of excess moisture around seeds: with protective environmentally safe materials that lock out surplus moisture all while allowing the right amounts in to make contact, and help seeds work their germination magic. Farmers in humid and wet regions can thus use seed coatings to great advantage during periods of heavy rainfall or flooding, and to even minimize efforts to recoup lost plantings— or reduce seed loss in the face of irrigation leaks or accidents.

While there are many agricultural tools to address the weak points and challenges farmers of all types face, seed coating technology simplifies and targets some of the most critical issues for farmers: seed viability, germination success, and increasing the probability for stronger and more robust seedlings. It does this by enhancing soil health, moisture availability, nutrient availability, and protection against rot or disease— and, when compared to other tools and inputs, seed coating does this in a far more labor-effective and low-cost way.

seeds with seed coatings being planted by hand in soil

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