Potential seeding problems require preparation

This year, more than ever, it will be important to monitor and document all the aspects of crop production where things can go wrong. In the midst of a worldwide pandemic, disruptions are more likely than usual at every step of the supply chain.

Let’s start with seed. If buying certified seed, your level of assurance is good, but no matter the seed source, we should all be saving seed samples for each crop going in the ground just in case there are problems or questions later.

If it’s farm-saved seed, do you have results from a recent germination and disease test? If it was tested before all the handling involved in the seed cleaning process and if it’s fragile seed such as a pulse crop, the germination and vigour after cleaning may have dropped.

Germination can also drop in storage so relying on old seed test results can be problematic. If the seed is going to be treated to reduce disease, did you have a seed test that treated the seed and then assessed disease?

Inoculant for pulse crops is another step that can go awry. These are living organisms and there have been cases where something went wrong either in manufacturing, transportation or storage and the inoculant did not properly perform.

If you get well into the growing season and then discover that your peas, lentils, soybeans, chickpeas or fababeans aren’t forming the usual root nodules, it can be a big problem.

It may not be useful to save some inoculant for analysis months after seeding. The level of viable organisms is going to diminish over time. However, you can save some packaging with lot numbers. That may be helpful in the case of a widespread problem.

If you and a bunch of neighbours have root nodulation concerns after using the same product, it may be something to further investigate.

In the recent past, there have been instances of fertilizer being so sticky that it continually gummed up seeding equipment. Good records about when and where it was purchased, how it was stored and the problems encountered can be useful if the problem warrants complaints.

Over the years, I’ve heard some heartbreaking stories about new seeding equipment with major performance issues. Most of the time, proper field checking will catch issues, but in some cases problems aren’t discovered until the crop starts to emerge. By then, it’s usually too late.

If you suspected problems during seeding and you called your dealer or even the manufacturer with concerns, how did they respond? Have you documented what they said and what they did? Do you have third party verification of the problems encountered? What about photos or even video?

A new piece of seeding equipment is expensive, but the cost can be huge if the equipment resulted in a substandard crop. If the problems resulted in a significant seeding delay, that too can be a major cost.

Trying to recoup cropping losses caused by seeding equipment malfunctions can be difficult. If it ends up in court, it will be expensive and stretch out for years with no guarantee of a favourable outcome.

Be careful, be aware, double check and document everything. For spraying operations, this includes temperature, wind speed and wind direction for each application.

Make plans and commit to this early so that it doesn’t get lost in the busy seeding season that’s only a few months away.

Kevin Hursh is an agricultural journalist, consultant and farmer. He can be reached by e-mail at kevin@hursh.ca.

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