When farmers search for ways to better manage cover crops, seed treatments such as neonicotinoids don’t readily come to mind.
But that could change if research results from University of Guelph weed scientist Dr. Clarence Swanton are proven in field tests. In this episode of Corn School, Real Agriculture resident agronomist Peter Johnson sits down with Swanton to discuss cover crop management strategies and the emerging neonic connection.
“Planting corn into a live cover crop is not a good thing,” says Swanton. “Our work would suggest that if you plant into a green crop and the corn comes up and detects there is green cover then it’s going to experience competition and change its physiology. We see the same type of thing whether it’s a weed or a cover crop.”
During the interview, Swanton tells Johnson that growers who wrestle with burning down and killing cover crops prior to planting corn or soybeans may get help from an unexpected source. In his research he has found that neonics can actually help overcome some of the stress that a weed or cover crop creates for emerging crops.
“Normally we think about seed treatments as protection from insects and diseases. One of the fascinating things in our research is we’ve found that if the seed is treated with a neonic, it actually enhances the stress tolerance of the plant,” explains Swanton. “It was actually able to trigger genes that enable the plant to minimize the impact of the weed in terms of early competition.
“That type of interaction has never been seen before. Just the thought that you could put a small bit of chemistry on the seed and change the stress tolerance of the crop … is a phenomenal attribute,” says Swanton.