5 Checks to Ensure Seed Treatment Success with Small Grains

- Jason Kaeb

Just as planting equipment needs to be swapped out from seeding corn and soybeans to drilling wheat or other small grains, different adjustments need to be made to seed treatment equipment when going from treating a large seed to something much smaller, such as wheat.

While the seed treatment equipment may have been purchased and set up to treat soybeans, that same equipment can do just as good as job treating wheat seed with the right adjustments. In an automated system, most of these changes can all be preset and done with a few screen touches. However, if you’re not there yet, here’s what you need to be checking: cross contamination, flowability, seed rate, application rate, and seed metering.

Cross Contamination. With small cereal seeds, they seem to find every crack and crevice, which makes cleanout a challenge. To prevent any cross contamination, conduct a thorough cleanout. If you’re still evaluating equipment for purchase, consider equipment that is easily accessible so that cleanout between crops or varieties can be done as efficient as possible.

Flowability. Because small grains don’t flow as easily as soybeans, the drum tilt needs to be set at a steeper angle for a complete cleanout of the seed, but this also means that the first seeds through don’t get treated as well. Consider application equipment that doesn’t rely on gravity to discharge from the drum.

Seed Rate. Getting the right amount of seed treatment on each seed is important. Unlike with soybeans, small grains don’t get treated on a true seed basis. Instead, they are treated per pound. Note the application labels are on a per hundredweight (CWT) basis. Generally speaking because cereal seed is not consistently the same size, it’s recommended to treat per 100 pounds or per 100 kilograms.

Application Rate. Even though you might be using the same product, application rates will vary. It may require the use of different hardware, such as pumps and hoses, to accommodate those variances. This is not a problem, so long as it’s planned for in advance and not an urgent need. Additionally, keep in mind that there will be different requirements for dry products compared to wet, and differing water rates can change the look of coverage.

Seed Metering. This may pose the biggest challenge. A seed wheel is setup to deliver a certain amount of seed based on a test weight taken by the user and input into the system. The system then assumes that the seed wheel pockets are completely full every revolution. With the flowability challenges of different cereals, this doesn’t always happen, especially at a higher treatment rate. This alone is reason to slow your metering rate and ensure each seed wheel pocket is full. To help address this, KSi VariRate meters seed off a scale hopper, instead of converting from volume to weight. This eliminates the challenge of flowability and users can switch between small grains and soybeans without having to enter a cup weight or worry about making sure the seed wheel pockets are being kept full.

If you go through this checklist when making the switch to treat cereals and small grains from soybeans, you’ll hopefully have a few less headaches to deal with.

Remember: At the end of the day, accuracy and stewardship when treating small grains and wheat is just as important as when treating soybeans.

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