You know things need attention when there is enough material to split into two separate articles. Seed enhancement is a relatively tricky process to start. Seed enhancement could include: film coating, encrustation, pelleting, build up coating and even practices like priming. Consider the rapid growth and development in these practices and it makes sense there are some inherent growing pains. Previously I wrote about issues involving wet treatment, dust off and clean out of equipment. This article will handle some additional topics that go hand in hand with those just mentioned.
Clumps in the Bag: For soybeans, these issues can be mistaken for peanut brittle (especially around Xmas). Clumps typically consist of seed and treatment components. They can be caused by several issues including: over dosing of components or components applied outside of the recipe ratio; curing of components like polymers prematurely where proper mixing time is not achieved; poor “action” in the treater allowing seed and components to group and stick; chip off of buildup not properly managed; frozen incoming seed; and surely several other reasons! If you have tried everything and still have issues, consider a simple scalping screen immediately downstream from your treater.
Frozen Seed: I mention this only because it is so interesting and commonly overlooked. If you produce seed in cold regions (think soybeans in North Dakota) and pre-treatment storage is outdoors, there will be some issues when your seed mass is below freezing temps. Consider the process of seed treatment, one of the most important factors is that the moisture (water) used to enhance the application has to be removed through drying which is evaporation. Essentially one of the time components of the process is the fact you are pushing water through a change of state to accomplish this: from liquid to gas. Now consider seed coming into the process at 15 degrees F. The first thing that happens is your treatment freezes as it is applied to the seed. Now, the necessary removal of water must transfer through 2 changes of state: solid to liquid to gas, to be removed. Do you suppose this will slow the process? You bet. If it doesn’t, you will have a sizeable downstream issue. This issue has to be addressed either by bringing seed up in temperature, or by including additional drying functionality in your treatment process.
Build Up in Equipment: The root cause for clean out of any of our equipment in seed conditioning is of course cross contamination of a product. What makes it especially tricky with seed enhancement is the build up of treatment components. Polymers required to stick and hold actives to the seed can exacerbate the situation and create quite a mess. Also additive powders that facilitate drying and plantability will cause additional issues. Because of the type and use of treatment components, every piece of mechanical application equipment on the market that will need some type of cleanout process…period (so of course look for features that minimize this). That said, what to do about it? Good aspiration prior to and during treatment can help immensely. Products that liberate from the seed (think leftover bees wings in corn) pick up treatment components and because of their light nature, end up adhered to parts of the treater that doesn’t get scoured by seed. Create good practices around scheduled cleanup that keep the equipment running efficiently. Inevitably the PETKUS approach includes a hot water, high pressure wash down in our entirely enclosed system. This solves the problem entirely and as a bonus keeps the operator from dangerous chemical exposure.