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Calibrate planters to accommodate smaller soybean seed to cut costs

Agriculture.com Staff 07/07/2010 @ 9:10am

Last year's drought is creating a windfall for this spring's planting costs. Soybean seed weights are generally lower due to that drought, says Roger Elmore of the University of Nebraska. As a result, you should get more seeds per pound, thus covering more acres for less money. Generally, growers will be getting at least 1,000 more seeds per pound this spring. "If you have a hot, dry August, you'll have smaller seeds," Elmore adds.

Without a drought, seed yields in Nebraska, for example, would be around 2,500 seeds per pound. University seed plots yielded about 3,400 seeds. The last two years seeds weighed around 3,000 to 3,200 seeds per pound. Before the current drought, in 1998, seeds were at 2,500 seeds per pound.

And the situation gets worse the farther east you go. "Some companies are talking 4,000 seeds per pound," Elmore observes. "Since there isn't as much irrigation farther east (of Nebraska), the seeds get smaller."

A seed lot with 3,500 seeds per pound would have a planting rate of about 43 pounds per acre. That represents a 28% savings of costs relative to normal seed weights. At today's prices, that represents a $9-per-acre windfall in seed savings.

However, this situation also means you will need to calibrate your planter to adjust for the smaller seed. To do that, first look at the seed weight listed on the bag. If that weight is not listed, then contact your dealer for the seeds per pound for that specific lot number. Refer to the owner's manual to make planter adjustments.

For example, at the pre-drought average of 2,500 seeds per pound, the normal seeding rate would be 60 pounds per acre, or about 150,000 seeds. However, a seed lot with 3,500 seeds per pound would have a planting rate of about 43 pounds per acre, Elmore adds.

Smaller seeds also offer other advantages over larger seed. In good soil conditions, smaller seeds will come up out of ground faster and there will be more root development.

However, some researchers have found that if the soil crusts after a rain, there will be decreased emergence and decreased seedling and root weights. This means a poorer stand, increased weed control problems and possibly reduced yields.

Download a PDF file of the Machinery Digest section from the April 2004 issue of Successful Farming magazine.

Last year's drought is creating a windfall for this spring's planting costs. Soybean seed weights are generally lower due to that drought, says Roger Elmore of the University of Nebraska. As a result, you should get more seeds per pound, thus covering more acres for less money. Generally, growers will be getting at least 1,000 more seeds per pound this spring. "If you have a hot, dry August, you'll have smaller seeds," Elmore adds.

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