New year, new seed treatment rules

Rules won’t affect on-farm treatment, unless the products you use are “restricted”

treated corn seed

When new rules for commercial and mobile seed treatment operations come into effect on January 1, 2017, farmers won’t notice much change. The standards won’t apply to farmers treating their own seed on-farm, and CropLife Canada, the association that represents the plant science industry, believes having consistent standards will be good for the industry.

The Accredited Seed Treatment Operation Standards are industry-led and regulated. They include 76 protocols — items like ensuring buildings and storage facilities are at least 30 metres from environmentally sensitive areas and requiring employees to have proper safety training.

Russell Hurst, CropLife Canada’s vice president of stewardship and sustainability, says these new standards are a good thing both for the industry and for individual farmers. Consistent handling and application procedures, says Hurst, will help ensure farmers buying seed are getting a more uniform product. In the long term, better seed treatment application standards will help farmers approach changing and emerging pest pressures more adeptly. What’s more, the health, safety, and environmental measures in place should help the long-term stewardship of the land too, says Hurst.

While these new rules do not apply to farmers who are treating their seed for individual use on their own farms, farmers may see their access to some products limited. Monica Klaas, general manager of Alberta Seed Processors, says there will be a list of products that “manufacturing companies and/or Health Canada have deemed need to have restricted access, so there’s some component to that product that is a threat to either the applicator, the environment, or something else. Only facilities that have certification under the new seed treatment standards have will have access to those products.” The list of restricted products will be available through CropLife in January 2017.

Will the costs of implementing and abiding by the new system increase seed prices? It’s hard to answer the question definitively, says Hurst, for a few reasons. Some of the commercial seed treaters were “already exceeding operational expectations,” so they didn’t have to make many changes to align with the new standards. Others had to make changes and possibly capital expenditures, says Hurst. Costs to individual businesses (if any) could vary widely.

Each seed treatment location will be required to do an audit every two years. Audits will cost $500, which Hurst points out isn’t that much for a commercial business.

Hurst’s “gut instinct” is that “there won’t be a significant increase to seed purchasers” but with a wide spectrum of businesses involved, Hurst can’t say for sure one way or the other.

Klaas concurs with Hurst in that she says she “doesn’t necessarily think that the new standards will directly drive pricing up.” Operators who made investments to meet standards will be able to spread costs out over many customers.

You can review the entire 56-page seed treatment AWSA document online here as a PDF in your browser.

The latest on-farm application tips

If you’re applying your own seed on your own farm, here four tips from Justin Bouvier, seed and seed care specialist with Syngenta.

1. Set your grain flow. This way you’ll know how much grain is going through your treater and then match the treatment with the flow of the grain. So “run your seed treater for a minute and timing it, then weighing it out and then if you know you have 20 bushels per minute on that auger, you’ll run the seed treatment to match that flow.” Calibration is crucial with on-farm treatment, says Bouvier.

2. Initial application is very important. “A good initial application makes the rest of the process much easier,” whether you’re using a $1,500 dollar applicator or a $130,000 one. When and how the product hits the seed is important. You can also add water to Syngenta products up to a one-to-one ratio, for better coverage of the seed (this is helpful for grain that is particularly dry or dusty, like barley).

3. Seed-to-seed contact distributes that product among the seeds. Where the seeds get rubbed together, chemical spreads out. If you are using a lower-end seed treater on the farm, “if wind permits, increase the slope of the auger so it pulls the product through the auger a little longer and allows that seed to tumble in that grain auger. The tumbling of the seeds helps that secondary mixing.” And, run that “auger as slow as possible to keep the seeds in the tube as long as possible.”

4. Make sure the product is dry before pouring it into the seeders. In higher end seed treaters, the drum “allows that seed to get air flow and dry time.” If we’re putting the seed into a truck, make sure it is dry “before it is put into any seeder.”

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