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Why Are Your Seeds Pink?

Don’t worry, your eyes aren’t tricking you. Those soybean seeds in the photo are really pink.

No, they didn’t come off of the soybean plant that way. And no, you’ll never eat any colored soybean seeds. In fact, there’s protocol in place so that treated seed can’t be sold for anything other than seed.

So if we can’t sell pink soybeans, why are we planting them?

These particular soybean seeds are pink because they’ve been “treated”. Depending on the seed treatment, they could be green or blue instead. Seed treatments are a very useful tool in a farmer’s toolbox because they are an added protection to a very expensive investment: seed. The particular soybeans we were planting in these photos were treated with both a fungicide and an insecticide. The fungicide will protect the seed and future seedling from diseases, such as phytophthora, and the insecticide will protect the seed and future seedling from insects, such as soybean aphids. Other treatments might include a biological or an inoculant, which will help soybean plants fix nitrogen.

We like using treated seed because it’s almost like a protection on our seed investment. We’re giving those soybean seeds the best chance we can to germinate and start growing into plants that can defend themselves. Soybeans can take a week or two to germinate, so it’s important to us that we use the seed treatment so the seed doesn’t rot in the ground if there’s really wet weather.

Some farmers choose to skip the seed treatment because that’s what works best for their operation. Others use different combinations of seed treatments. We use seed treatments on our corn seeds, too. In the end, everyone is trying to achieve the same goal: a good stand that sets the crop up for a high yield at the end of the growing season.

I mentioned earlier that you don’t ever have to worry about eating treated seeds. The bright coloring would be a huge red flag if a farmer tried to sell them, but it’s not likely that they would since a bushel of seed is much more expensive than a bushel of grain. (While they’re basically the same thing on the outside, crop seed is grown specifically for the next season’s seed. The seed may have new genetic traits that help the plants that grow from them to be higher-yielding, more vigorous, or provide better protection against pests. The seed is also sorted so that it’s as uniform as possible, which helps to move seed through the planter properly and space seed at the right distance and depth when planting.) Besides, farmers are very good at predicting how much seed they will need and will avoid over-buying because, well, seed is really, really expensive. And you can rest easy knowing that the soybeans that we will harvest from the soybean plants that grow from these pink seeds won’t be pink, too. The seed treatment stays on the outside and will only last for about a month.

I think the pink soybeans are much prettier than the regular old brown ones anyway, don’t you think? 🙂

Don't worry, your eyes aren't tricking you. The soybean seeds we're planting really are pink. So why are we planting pink seeds?