Maintaining seed quality has been a subject of study in the Farm Journal Test Plots for many years. Through our program, the plot crew has learned how to handle seed in order to maximize its potential.
"To understand how to preserve seed quality, we've tested seed sizes and planter meters," says Farm Journal Field Agronomist Ken Ferrie. "Some seed sizes are more prone to damage. In a round seed, the germ area is not as well protected as it is on a flat seed. This makes round seeds more susceptible to damage from handling."
Ferrie emphasizes the importance of seed quality in achieving successful planting and even emergence.
"We hadn't looked into whether bulk-fill planters and air delivery could have any effect on quality, which is something farmers have asked me many times," he explains.
To test bulk-fill planters and their air delivery systems, Ferrie designed a protocol to use across a group of central-fill planters currently on the market. The 16-row planters used were: Case IH Early Riser 1250, Great Plains Yield-Pro 4025, John Deere 1770NT and Kinze 3660 Twin-Line.
"With the different planter styles, gravity-fed individual row hoppers and air delivery from bulk-fill hoppers provide a different ride for the seed from the bag to the field," Ferrie says. "We wanted our test to measure if bulk-fill planters and their pneumatic systems pose any threat to seed quality."
Three of the planters tested used vacuum seed metering systems, and one was a finger pickup system.
The test team ran the protocol two times for each planter with two seed sizes—a medium round and a medium flat seed. The planters were tested with the same lot of seed, although the testing dates spanned up to a month.
Here's a step-by-step description of how the protocol was executed for each of the planters tested. These steps were repeated for each seed size.
Stage 1 For each planter test, the test team started with one seed size and coated it with a seed lubricant (graphite or talc, depending on the recommendation).
Stage 2 A pre-test seed sample was taken to know the initial seed quality before starting each test.