Ketty Nilsson President, NoroGard

Is the seed treated, or does it just look like it? In the seed treatment sector, it’s quite common for quality to be determined by visual inspection. If it has a nice, bright color, it’s considered good. But is it?

Today’s complex treatments and the number of products available give you a world of opportunities to add value to your seed, but can a visual inspection determine the quality of seed treatment application that is going to give you and your customer the return on investment you’re looking for? No, it cannot.

Application rates are down to 1.7 ounces per 220 pounds of seed. While that saves us from transporting water, it puts pressure on equipment suppliers. Not only is it a challenge to apply this tiny dose evenly over every single seed, but there’s also the need to check dosage rate tolerances. You must ensure that you’re not applying too little, resulting in a lack of protection. You also need to ensure that you don’t overdose and kill the seed, or just waste your money.

Even if you use more common application rates, accuracy is critical. Let’s say you want to apply 6.8 ounces of treatment per 2,200 pounds of seed. If dosage rates differ by more than 10 percent and you have a processing capacity of 45 tons per hour, this means you might use an extra 2,700 ounces of chemical in one day. Imagine what that does to your budget over the long run.

Using a sophisticated continuous flow control in your application system allows you to program what dosage differences you can tolerate, and that is a good investment. The ability to control the tolerances and keep an accurate dosage rate will pay dividends. But to maintain a low tolerance of difference, you need to have a sophisticated system to begin with.

If using an application system based on weight lost, it’s important to know that the application is based on the density of the chemicals — a factor that’s never consistent. Even when using the same product, the density of each barrel can differ. This means you will get a different dosing rate on the seed with every package change.

Also, if you pump the treatment directly from the chemical tank up to your application in the treater, you will get a different dosage rate depending on the volume in the tank. Whether or not your tank is nearly full or more than half empty will result in different pressure levels on the transportation pump and that affects the dosing rate.

On top of that, if you use peristaltic pumps in your system, temperature must also be considered. Typically mornings bring lower temperatures, which gradually rise throughout the day. As the temperature increases, the hoses in your peristaltic pump expand, giving you different dosage rates.

Choosing a sophisticated system to help you push the envelope and control dosage rates with precision is a good investment. But not everything that shines is gold, so make sure you know what you are buying.