This week we have successfully completed the 2016 seeding season. Our team took some time later in the week to slow down and enjoy some homegrown burgers. Seeding would not have been successful without the dedication of these individuals – and thanks to them the crops are in the ground patiently waiting for the right amount of sunshine and moisture to start germination.
The majority of the seeding process is employed by the large tractor and air drill pulled across the fields putting the seed into the ground. However, that is not the whole seeding story; in fact, it began last year as we harvested our crops and saved some of the seeds harvested to plant this year, and we also purchased some new seed from a seed grower.
Before we give the OK to which seeds we want to plant the following spring, they are put through a performance test. They are graded on moisture and protein content, and also given a germination test to determine viability (we will go more in-depth into this later). Once the seeds have passed our criteria as producers, we will store them for the winter.
Throughout the winter months, the seed is kept dry and away from moisture in grain bins. Closer to the spring seeding season, we are cleaning the seed. This isn’t the mop and bucket ‘cleaning’ we may think of, but one where we use a sifting method to separate out any dirt,weeds, cracked and misshapen seeds. This will help make sure the seed has a safe and easy trip through the equipment into the ground.
Next, after the equipment is ready to hit the fields, the pea and lentil seed is inoculated. To inoculate the seed means the seed is mixed with a dry powder, rhizobia bacteria, that will stick to the seed. These bacteria form a symbiotic relationship with the roots that allow the plants to create nitrogen. The rhizobia bacteria are time sensitive as they are a living organism. They must be stored in a cool, dark place until put on the seed.
Once applied to the seed they must be put in the soil within 24-48 hours or the bacteria will start to die. This sometimes can get our seeding team into a bit of a panic. And yes, sometimes we have to re-inoculate if there was an equipment malfunction, weather system or disruption in transportation to the field in adequate time.
The seed is only one part of this love story between farmer, his fields and his crops. Preparing the field itself to be healthy and ready to produce food is another year-round job that must be tended to with great care.
Part 2 of Preparing the Field will follow….