Taking seed treatments on the road

LANGHAM, Sask. — Small-scale on-farm seed treatment plants have been around for decades, but they have not been widely used until recently, says Jeff Young of CanSeed Equipment in Saskatoon.

“The younger generation of farmers is starting to see the value of seed treatment,” he said.

“These young growers won’t put a seed in the ground unless it’s treated.”

Growers are familiar with small on-farm treatment machines and large stationary plants at their seed dealers, but the trend toward high-volume mobile trailers is new and rapidly gaining momentum on big farms and for custom operators.

“Guys buying these big mobile plants are doing a lot of custom work,” Young said.

“They’re making good money because they’ve figured out this is not just a short-season machine like a combine or a drill. They can do a lot of custom work to stretch out the investment.

“Seed doesn’t have to go from the treatment plant straight into the ground. Guys will pre-treat, then put the seed back in the bin until they need it. Of course, storage time depends on the treatment you’re putting on the seed.

“Some of our customers run more than 200,000 bushels in a season through their mobile plant. Custom application rate this year was around 80 cents per bu., so there’s money to be made.”

During a tour of the treatment plant on display at the Ag in Motion farm show held last month near Saskatoon, Young said the generator is at the right rear of the trailer, making the plant entirely self-sufficient.

The fill hopper is on the left rear of the trailer bed. The hopper has a seed metering wheel with cup-weight calibration.

He said the metering wheel is a volumetric measuring system with two inlets, two outlets and eight pockets of seed rotating around a centre pivot. Accuracy is within 99 percent. All calibration settings are retained for multiple seed types.

Seed travels from the hopper up the conveyor into the treating chamber.

Chemical is pulled from the pump stands. Young said the trailer is equipped with the largest drum available on any mobile seed treating system. It measures eight feet tall by 42 inches in diameter.

“It tilts, so when you first start your run, no seeds get out,” Young said.

“It holds seed back until there’s 300 pounds in the drum. Then it tilts down so seed can start to flow out. This means no seeds can escape the drum unless they’ve been treated.

Also, the drum tilts all the way down to help you get a better clean-out, which is important in any seed treatment machine. The conveyors all have clean-out ports.”

The chemical pump-stand lets the operator mix chemicals prior to application. It’s equipped with an electronic volumetric flow meter that displays the flow rate of the liquid chemical products being transferred to the atomizer head. The peristaltic pumps use rotating rollers that push fluids through a hose to deliver them into the atomizer head.

No chemical ever touches the pumps, so there’s no clean-out. The pump-stand can have up to three heads, depending on required chemical flow rate. The operator can set the rate using an iPad tablet.

Some farmers have had bad experiences with flow meters in the past, saying they give false readings.

“A big factor in accuracy is keeping your flow meters clean. You have to do a thorough clean-out as soon as you’re done using the machine. Don’t let it sit,” Young said. “The customer who owns this machine (the display unit) ran 60,000 bu. last year, which was his first year. He phoned me up when he was done and said he had been within one percent accuracy for volume used.”

Seed enters the stainless steel atomizer chamber, where it’s evenly distributed over a cone. The atomizer head spins at 1,725 r.p.m. to uniformly apply chemical to the seed. Different combinations of chemicals and inoculants, both dry and wet, can be applied simultaneously. Seed then enters the drum, where it’s polished and dried, and from there back into the bin for storage.

Young said the plant at Ag in Motion had all the available options, bringing the price tag to US$143,000

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