Pushing the Envelope Requires a Commitment to Proper Application

- Ketty Nilsson

As the world demands more food and more constraints are placed on the resources needed to grow that food, the more important seed technology becomes. From a farmer perspective as the value of the seed he or she is buying increases, so does the need to protect that investment. These are just a few of the reasons we’ve seen tremendous growth in the adoption of seed treatments during the past decade.

Given these benefits, it stands to reason that the market will push the envelope on what we can adhere to the exterior of the seed.

There are a number of steps a seed must go through before it makes its way to farmers for planting — cleaning and conditioning, laboratory for testing, storage, treating and processing. It’s extremely important to note that the quality and efficacy of seed-applied technologies hinge on starting with quality clean seed. If you begin the process with seed that’s not clean, that treatment won’t stick. It’s the same thing with any type of adhesive: the surface to which you are applying the adhesive must first be cleaned.

Only after you have clean seed can we look at the role dosage rates or loading of active ingredients play. With today’s technology, it’s very easy to achieve accurate dosing rates. We can easily get down to 50 milliliters per 100 kilograms (1.69 ounces per 220 pounds) of seed.

For example, we have 100 kg. (220 lbs.) of barley seed with a surface area of 150 square meters (1,600 square feet). Here, the seed treatment equipment is capable of distributing 50 ml. of liquid at 150 square meters, or 1.69 ounces over 1,600 square feet. Let that thought sink in for a moment … add to that the demand is often a capacity above 45 tons of treated seed per hour (in closed systems).

It’s really a delicate balance. You don’t want to over-apply product at the risk of damaging the seed, wasting the product and adding extra expense to your operation. On the flip side, if you don’t apply enough then you might not get the intended benefits.

To ensure you are consistently applying the right rate, it’s important to evaluate the uniformity of your end product. As a general rule of thumb, 80 percent of the individual seeds should have a dosage rate of plus or minus 20 percent of the average value.

So as we look to the future of seed treatments and the role they play, it’s increasingly important to make sure we have quality application with the precise amount of active ingredient being applied to the seed. If you don’t have it down to a science now, I must ask: “What will you do when application rates double?”