Some Farmers Don’t Follow Their Own Conspiracy Theories

By Shaun Haney

We live in world right now that thrives on the speculation of conspiracy. A great example of a mainstream conspiracy theorists are the “birthers” that don’t believe Barack Obama was not born in the US even though he produced a birth certificate. Conspiracy theorists are very prevalent in agriculture as well. I receive a great dose of emails on a monthly basis that provide me with a healthy dose of “did you know that……” There are days when I am in the mood for a good old fashioned farmer conspiracy.

A great example of this is seeding rates. Yes I said seeding rates. Did you know that I hear comments and get emails on the conspiracy of seed companies and agronomists pushing higher seeding rates onto farmers based on this 1000 kernel weight calculation. Planting by seeds per acre or plants per square foot provides the challenge of getting traditional thinkers to rid themselves of the fallacy of seeding by the bushel. Essentially the bigger the seed, the higher the seeding rate. Consequently the smaller the seed the lower the seeding rate. Seems simple. Apparently not.

For example many farmers try and seed wheat traditionally at 1.5 bushels (90 pounds) per acre. When dealing with large seed and calculating 25 plants per square foot, the resulting recommendation could be 2.5 bushels (150 pounds) per acre. I have experienced several comments that this is “nothing more than retailers and seed companies just trying to sell more seed. I would never buy that much seed.”

Okay lets take that at face value and examine the opposite side of the equation. If bigger seed means higher rates, smaller seed must mean lower seeding rates. I have personally experienced several discussion where the seed is small and would provide the farmer with the opportunity to lower his normal seeding rate and still meet the ideal plant population. Consequently this lower seeding rate would save the farmer money. In our above example lets say the calculation worked out to less than one bushel (55 pounds) per acre to achieve the ideal plant population. you would expect many farmers to jump at this chance to lower the seeding rate and have some input costs while still achieving the ability to get the yield desired…….NOPE.

Frequently the response I get is, “there is no way I am seeding wheat under a bushel per acre, are you crazy.” Apparently the conspiracy theory only holds on the one side. How come I don’t get emails about the conspiracy of lower seeding rates.

We need to start thinking of cereal plant populations just like we do with corn. We don’t seed corn by the bushel, so why do we place cereals in the ground in such an inaccurate manner. On some seed lots your traditional 90 pounds per acre may be 20 plants or 35 plants per square foot. Thats a big difference. That could also mean a completely different experience with the variety you have chosen the plant.

 

Shaun Haney

Shaun grew up on a family seed farm in Southern Alberta. Haney Farms produces, conditions and retails wheat, barley, canola and corn seed. Shaun Haney is the founder of RealAgriculture.com. @shaunhaney

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2 Comments

George Lubberts

Its very important to look at TKW and seeding rates when comparing two or more varieties. Years ago I had a farmer who wanted to know which wheat variety (one he had been growing for a number of years, the other new to him) would yield the best so he was going to seed both at the traditional 1.5 bu/acre. When I discussed TKW with him, he decided to check the TKW of both varieties, one was 40 grams per 1000 seeds, the other was 30 grams per 1000. What would he have been testing if he had seeded both at the traditional 1.5 bu/acre rate? Definitely not the genetic potential of each variety!

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Troy LaForge

Shaun;
We have seen this example of yours many times in the past on both sides. What should likely happen as an industry is that we should start selling seed like other inputs. Glyphosate this year is about $3/ 360 grams of active, 25 plants of wheat/ ft2 should be so many dollars per acre. We could likely raise the bar on seed quality and yield by taking this approach. Food for thought. Troy.

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