With every job on the farm we start with the end goal in mind. In crop production we want the seeds that we plant to achieve their greatest potential as a high quality, high yielding crop. Seed that has an effective seed treatment applied with the proper equipment has a greater chance of reaching that potential than seed that doesn’t.
Seed treatments reduce the effect of diseases and insects during establishment and allow the plant to focus its energy into growth rather than defending against these seed and soil-borne disease pathogens and yield-robbing pests.
“A properly applied seed treatment is a yield enhancement tool,” says Dan Bardi, seed treatment technical specialist with Bayer CropScience. Farmers may look at applying seed treatments as a little bit of insurance, or something they might do if they have time or if it isn’t too much of an inconvenience. With proper planning and an evaluation of the seed treating system, treating seed can be done effectively and efficiently.
CALIBRATE GRAIN FLOW
The first step in doing a better job of on-farm seed treating is to accurately calibrate the flow of seed coming out of the treating system. “Growers who don’t calibrate the grain flow coming through the system could be (as much as) 20 per cent high or low on the amount of seed being treated,” says Rob Bishop, seed care specialist with Syngenta Crop Protection. Calibrating ensures that we know the flow of the grain during the seed treating operation.
A sliding gate, with marked measured lines, will help to set the flow rate and give a reference point to reset to if something is changed. Here we are trying to find out what
Seed flow can be as much as 20 per cent off without proper calibration. An electric or air pressure system for product delivery is more constant.
the weight of grain is that flows in a specified time based on the slide settings or gate opening. Seed treatment rates are applied as ml/100 kg and it may be easier when calibrating with a scale to weigh the grain in kilograms and save a step of doing the conversions. One thing to remember is that because we are applying the seed treatment based on the weight of the grain, the bushel weight of the grain will change the amount of grain flowing through the system.
Making sure your seed treating system has a way of controlling the seed flow is an essential component of seed treating. “You must know the rate of seed being treated to apply a calibrated rate of treatment,” says Bardi.
CALIBRATE PRODUCT FLOW
The second step is to calibrate the flow of the treatment being applied. You‘ll want to use an electric pump or air pressure system. The flow from a gravity drip system varies too much from when the container is full at the start to when it is just about empty. A consistent flow of material is key to getting the right rate of product through the system.
To check the flow rate of the seed treatment, let it run and measure in a graduated cylinder the flow in ml/minute at a certain pressure or valve setting and then match that to the seed flow. You will also want to check that you are using the recommended nozzle for the products you are applying.
When treating early in the season, it is good idea to be set up to be able to bring the system inside a heated shop to prevent product from freezing and changing flow rate. Putting the chemical tanks on a small trailer or pallet makes them easier to move around. It is also a good idea to use dripless connectors on chemical lines. At the end of the treating session it is important to thoroughly clean the equipment with water to prevent any buildup of product that may affect flow rates.
ENSURE EVEN COVERAGE
The third step to better seed treating is ensuring good distribution of the seed treatment onto the seeds. Primary application occurs when you spray the product onto the curtain of grain flowing past the spray nozzle. Secondary application is the mixing that happens from the auger to the truck or bin. Here is where you want to get good seed to seed contact. Don’t run the auger too full or too slow. What you want to see is good mixing and seed tumbling. “An older, long auger with worn flighting actually helps the seed mix very well and get great secondary application,” says Bishop.
Accurate coverage of every seed helps ensure that every seed has protection, thus maximizing germination and ultimately leading to optimum performance in the field. Now is the time to evaluate your seed treating system. Maybe it is time to upgrade to better equipment. The other option is to consider using a commercial seed treating plant to do the job for you.