Written by: Bob Foley | Research Team Guest Contributor
Seed is an amazing little dynamo that contains next year’s plant and also provides food to feed the new seedling until it becomes a plant capable of thriving on its own.
Back in my Dad’s and Granddad’s day, all one had to do is match up the correct plates to the seed size and sow into the ground. Planting seed typically kicked off a growing season that found dad spending his time trying to keep the crop alive while protecting it. He religiously used equipment like the moldboard plow, rotary hoe, mounted cultivator and maybe a dolly sprayer. He scouted rigorously for yield invaders like cutworm, wireworm, pythium, corn borer, phytophthora, ear worm, and weeds.
To combat weeds, Dad had some weapons like Atrazine or 2-4-D, plus some kids who walked beans. Some years it seemed the list of pitfalls to deal with just to help the crop make it to harvest was endless. It’s alarming to think that in April these farmers had no idea what challenges they might face throughout the growing season or what the cost to manage them would be. Actually, they only managed them if they were fortunate! Mostly, they just did battle with them.
Look inside seed today and you still see the future plant and a seedling’s food, but now there is so much more. Wouldn’t it be helpful if seeds had decals like a racecar, proclaiming all that was contained inside: Glyphosate, 2,4-D resistance? It’s in there. Bug and worm resistance, improved seed quality? Check. Better health,flexibility for higher planting density? Included. Drought tolerance, ethanol preferred? Yep. You get the picture… They would look like your new hunting jacket with all its tags: cattail camo, silent-suede fabric, water-tex, insul-force, techno zip, hook & loop closure, wind-stopper etc., etc., with all the logos showing what’s inside to help it perform and be a better value to you. All the added-in parts working together for your assault on the elements.
Yield has become an “all-hands-on-deck” mission. Mechanical, Chemical, and Genetic engineering have all come together to help us understand genes so well that we not only map them, but we edit them, repair them, and move them, essentially turning genes on or off like flipping a light switch as we enter a room. Plant breeders scour the world like the yield-army’s foot soldiers. Fertilizers, surfactants, safeners, field agronomists, planter singulation, and what about the tremendous chemistry? Maybe the most unheralded group of the yield mission over the past 20 years is the seed treatment gang and their arsenal of powerful weaponry products that coat our seed and protect all that is packed into it.
Remember the seed? Even though the decals won’t be found on any of the power-packed kernels, take a minute to appreciate this little dynamo, your army of dynamos. Take a minute as you pour the seeds into the planter to ponder the army you are about to unleash in your field.
Dad and Granddad wouldn’t believe it!