Carrington Research Extension Center


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Spring is in the Air


The spring season is always my favorite time of year. In agriculture, our typical planting season starts in the middle of April. With winter in the rear view mirror, the increased minutes of sunlight every day are a welcoming gesture to the start of another bountiful growing season.                                   

Last year the planting of foundation seedstocks started on April 5. Lower amounts of fall rain and snow accumulation of 36 inches yielded drier field conditions allowing most fields to be free of wet potholes. This led to early spring plantings with good growing conditions in most areas that resulted in production of very high yields.                             

In 2016, the CREC foundation seedstock program raised 13 crops and 32 cultivars. Table 1 shows the crops and number of cultivars for each. This production was spread across 1430 acres.

Table 1. 2016 CREC Seedstock Crops and Cultivars

The spring of 2017 is starting different from the spring of 2016. Moderate fall rain and 57 inches of snow provided much needed moisture. Seedstocks planting started on April 14 with barley. We will raise 37 cultivars among our 12 crops (Table 2). This production will be on 1500 acres. These two years show the diversification of the CREC foundation program.

Table 2. 2017 CREC Seedstock Crops and Cultivars

Regardless of the hectic pace to plant this diverse seedstock, employee safety is always highest priority at the CREC. Seed purity is number two. Foundation grade seed is easily lost if purity is not maintained. In the world of certified seed, a specific variety represents a unique set of plant characteristics. Foundation grade seed represents a seedlot where those characteristics may be expressed at the highest level.                    

Managing foundation seed requires careful steps to ensure purity and all of these varieties equates to even more extra effort and care. Every piece of equipment needs to be free of seed contaminants before a variety is planted. The list of equipment used is extensive: bins, conveyors, small metal tubs, seed treatment canister, forklifts, totes, a seed tender and drills.

No matter how busy the spring season becomes you cannot rush, take short-cuts, or partially clean the equipment used for each different variety. Our drill typically takes two to three hours to fully clean. Any other transfer equipment being used also needs cleaning. A portable air compressor and generator are valuable tools in this process. The planted acreage of our varieties can range from three to 100 acres.  Depending on the acreage we are seeding, we often spend more time cleaning all the equipment than the time required to actually complete the planting. When weather conditions limit the days for planting this can be a real frustration!  With all that said, we will continue to take the time to follow these practices of producing foundation grade seed so that the seedsman receives the purity they should expect.


Dave Copenhaver
Foundation Seedstocks Research Spec.

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