Seed is increasingly used as part of the delivery mechanism for active ingredients that help protect young plants from seed and soil-borne disease, insect and fungal pressures. As more inputs are added to the seed, an inert seed coating or polymer outer shell is used to help these seed enhancements stay on the seed.
Sunflower seed is evolving. As new varieties are bred, the physical seed changes, meaning seed coating technologies must change right along with them.
“Genetics have a lot to do with the overall kind of planting experience a grower gets with the seed,” says Garrett Driver, Nuseed Supply Chain Manager.
In the sunflower world there are two distinct types of sunflower — one is the oilseed variety, which generally are smaller seeds, and confection sunflowers, which are larger.
“Oilseed sunflowers are usually smooth and smaller, and typically will flow and plant better compared to the confection variety. The other bigger challenge of sunflower seed in general is the density of the seed which is much lighter compared to, say, soybean or corn,” Driver explains.
“Being lighter, but still having a fairly large surface area, it can be a little more challenging to plant sunflower in tougher environmental conditions. A lot of wind — even high humidity or rain — does increase the humidity in the air which can change how well the seeds flow through their equipment. That’s where it’s pretty critical to have the right products on the seed and ultimately provide the best value to the customer.”
That’s done through seed treatments that are held onto the seed by a polymer. A polymer is a binding component that basically acts as a thin coating on the seed, notes William Olson, North American Sales Manager for Incotec, which supplied the new polymer to Nuseed.
This applied technology helps protect the seed treatment investment while also enabling increased flowability and plantability of the seed to achieve consistent seed drop (singulation).
“Sunflower is different than all the rest of the crops. It’s a large seed, and in the case of confection sunflower features a rough surface. You have to make sure you get a good coating on the outside because we want to have good flowability through the planter. That’s where the polymer comes in and makes all the difference in the world,” Olson says.
“At the grower level, planting equipment has changed and is getting larger, and so the issue of proper seed placement is huge.”
The new coating design involved invaluable input from growers and seed suppliers, including Jed Wall, Sunflower Business Development Lead for Legend Seeds in Wahpeton, ND.
“We started off with a whole gamut of different treatment and polymer options and worked through them to determine what had the best singulation and the least amount of doubles and skips. And then we took it to the field via some of the newer machines, just to see how it flowed through different tubing and the like,” Wall says.
“We saw a drastic improvement with Nuseed’s new polymer. The flowability was just wonderful and it really is top-notch in the industry right now.”
Jeff Oberholtzer, a sunflower grower in Mohall, SD, said he has experienced 99% singulation with the new coating.
“It was the easiest planting experience I’ve ever had. We weren’t getting any doubles, no skips,” he says. A double occurs when two seeds are dropped at once, and a skip occurs when no seed is dropped at all, he adds. “The seeds are all the same size and they just fit right into the meter dish,” Oberholtzer says.
The Meaning of Green
As part of the change, growers also noticed Nuseed sunflower seed change color, from blue to green. Why the change?
“Most seed coatings are blue. We wanted to differentiate ourselves. The change of colorant from blue to green is to help identify the uniqueness of our seed and our brand,” Driver says. “Growers recognize the green Nuseed logo, so we thought it would be appropriate to make our seed colorant green. We thought it was a nice touch.”
It’s important to note that neither colorants nor polymers contain any active ingredients, and germination is not impacted by the change in either polymer or colorant. A change in polymer or seed colorant does not require any change in handling or agronomic practices for the grower. Nuseed recommends safe seed handling and the proper setting of planting equipment. These recommendations do not change, Driver adds.
As with all sunflower planting, proper planter settings and testing are paramount. Visit nuseed.com for resource information regarding planter settings, seeding rates and best practices. Refer to your planter manufacturer guide for specific information on your equipment settings.
Nor does the new polymer affect what active ingredients are used on the seed. Nuseed sunflowers continue to be available with leading sunflower seed treatment products to protect against seed and soil-borne diseases, fungus and insects, Driver says.