Seed-Applied Nutrients Give Early Edge

Covering large acres within a very small seeding window can be managed several ways — bigger seeder setups needing a lot of people power, seeding earlier to extend the season, or a combination of booth. Bigger equipment carries a hefty price tag, but seeding into cold soil can mean a rough start for the crop. Omex’s Primer, P3 and C3 products are designed to help that early seeded crop get going and put down some serious roots in a hurry.

Jarrett Chambers, managing director of Omex, says that the Primer and P3 and C3 products are designed to meet all the nutritional needs of the growing plant in those crucial first 30 days of growth.

“Research shows that seedling vigour is directly correlated to the nutrients available to the seed at germination,” Chambers says. “Over 400 seed lots were tested and all responded to a nutrient dressing applied on the seed.” It’s that kind of response that led Omex to develop a specific nutrient dressing, Primer, and an in-crop top-up, P3 for pulses and C3 for canola and cereals, to give crops their best chance at a vigorous start.

Primer contains, among other things, phosphorus, potassium and zinc. Why zinc? Zinc is concentrated in the embryo of the seed and is a crucial catalyst for hormone pathways during germination. “Zinc actually plays a role in triggering germination. Once it has done its job, other nutrients, such as phosphorus, calcium and nickel, become more important,” Chambers says. What’s more, zinc has been found to be chronically lacking in seed lots throughout Western Canada, he says.


Colby Squires, who farms northwest of Stettler, Alta., grows peas, wheat, barley and canola — and “they all need to go in at the same time.” Squires says they’ve been doing research for some time to improve early-season growth. “We keep seeding earlier and earlier and were looking at ways to give the crop an edge.” He tried Omex’s Primer for the first time in 2009.

Right from the get-go, Squires noticed a big difference in his canola crop. “We definitely saw larger more developed root systems early on,” he says. Had 2009 had more average growing conditions, Squires is certain he would have seen some yield differences between the treated and untreated portions of the fields.

As it stands, that healthy, early seeded canola went through frost three times. “And it came back strong with good vigour,” he says, something he believes is due in part to the larger established root system developed in the spring. “We had very little moisture all summer, as well. We’re going to try the Primer again in 2010 and hope for more average conditions,” he says.


Chambers explains that somewhere before the three-leaf stage, seed reserves become depleted and the plant can “run out of gas” without complete nutrition support. Shortly after this stage, most producers go in with an in-crop herbicide. “If a plant is stressed, the energy and nutrients required to metabolize the herbicide can set the crop back,” Chambers says. He says you may have noticed “flashing,” where the entire crop looks a little paler for five to eight days after an application. “This isn’t herbicide damage or anything wrong with the herbicide, it’s just that everything the plant does, including metabolizing chemical, takes energy and nutrients.”

Omex’s solution is to supply the germinating seed with a complete nutrient package, Primer, and then go in with an in-crop foliar application of nutrients — their P3 product — to support the plant and avoid this set back. While it may not necessarily pay off with more yield, Chambers says days to maturity can be improved and that can mean a huge difference in quality in the fall because of an earlier harvest.

Squires did apply P3, and says that besides being a bit bulky at a rate of one litre per acre, it does tank mix with glyphosate or Liberty, making application relatively easy. The cost of the Primer for cereals is a bit steep, Squires says, however on canola he estimates it costs him pennies per pound. Mind you, treating cereals is easier than canola. “We’ve moved to bulk canola so now we can use a batch treater to get it done. It is a bit tougher if you’ve got bags.”

Without a check strip, it is tough to determine a real difference in yield outcome, but Squires says he also does custom spraying and could compare his canola crop to many others in the area that didn’t receive Primer or the in-crop top up that he did as a tank mix with his first herbicide application. “I noticed a huge difference in how our crop came back from the frost. Even with the frost set backs, we still had an average crop and were done harvest September 25, before everyone else in the area.”

“We estimate between the seed Primer and the in-crop foliar application of P3, it cost us roughly $10 an acre. Even without a measured yield difference, we absolutely think it was a good investment and will do it again,” Squires says.


Does applying nutrient on pulse seed affect your rhizobia inoculant? Yes, it used to, but not any more, Chambers says. With Pulse Primer seed-applied nutrient product, “it took us four years to solve the compatibility problems with rhizobia inoculants, but we can confidently say antagonism is no longer a problem,” he says.

In fact, Chambers says that the

“I noticed a huge difference in how our crop came back from the frost. Even with the frost set backs, we still had an average crop and were done harvest September 25, before everyone else in the area.”


Pulse Primer product has become a real compliment to rhizobia inoculation. “The application of Primer on pulses means more roots for the bacteria to form nitrogen-fixing nodules on,” he says.

Chambers says Omex offers several formulations of its Primer and P3 product. The Pulse Primer can be applied simultaneously with the rhizobia inoculant, though it’s preferred that Primer be applied first. For other crops, such as wheat, barley and canola, the Primer product formulations will vary somewhat depending on your growing region. “The product always contains phosphorus and zinc and a background of other nutrients. For the area around Edmonton we add in copper, and for some other areas of Alberta and Saskatchewan we add in manganese,” he says.

Chambers would recommend adding Primer Cu (with copper) when you are using seed that has been grown in a copper deficient soil and you are not sure if the seed had proper copper nutrition on it during the previous year. Manganese is added for the same reason as copper. “In addition, our research has now confirmed, manganese is one the primary nutrient required in maximizing seedling vigour,” he says.

Lyndsey Smith is a field editor with Grainews in Lumsden, Sask. Email her at [email protected]

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