Lignition could help improve seed vigor, making "seed saving" profitable
Canadian farmers are finding they can increase wheat yields — and reduce seed costs — by improving their grain quality and planting their own seed after cleaning. Dave Sutherland, who is developing a biostimulant called Lignition, tells us that treating wheat with Lignition improves seed vigor, leading to yield gains of 10% to 20% over certified seed of the same variety.
Jan 30, 2017 By Jerry Carlson -- Sutherland has been marketing Lignition by word of mouth in Canada, especially in western wheat provinces, for several years. He's seeing farmers' demand for Lignition rising about 20% each year. For 2017, early orders are up 40% over a year ago. A foliar treatment with Lignition is only $7.95 per acre.
In this market atmosphere, farmers are buying only the yield enhancers with a high ratio of reward to cost. Rising orders, year on year, are a signal that something is working for those growers.
Growers also save substantial amounts of seed costs by cleaning their own wheat, versus buying certified seed every year. And the successive generations of healthier, home-grown wheat continue the improvement in overall vigor. If certified wheat seed costs $40 to $50 per acre for two bushels per acre, using your own seed worth $3.50 per bushel at the elevator saves $33 to $43 per acre in seed cost alone — minus the nominal cost of cleaning and storage of seed.
The rationale for saving wheat for seed: Sutherland has studied the energy content of wheat treated with Lignition for about 10 years. He has found that energy content of Lignition-treated wheat, detected by starch and sugar analysis, rises significantly. Yield checks against certified wheat also show a consistent gain. Lignition works by improving photosynthetic efficiency. Wheat researchers are trying to attempt that with genetic modification, but gene insertions are likely to impose unintended consequences. British agriculturists are opposing field-scale open trials with a transgenic wheat that supposedly has higher photosynthetic efficiency with a gene "imported" from bromegrass.
Our view is that the same concept would pay off for U.S. growers who elect to raise a reliable public variety of soybeans which does not subject the farmer to prohibitions against saving the beans for seed. We're seeing some growers do that with oats already.
Those who save their seed reason that healthy, fully mineralized soils produce consistently more vigorous seed than they'll likely get in a bag. A few seed companies like Prairie Hybrids of Deer Grove, IL, make the case that non-GMO hybrid seed corn raised on their soils has greater seedling vigor than seed from fields sprayed with glyphosate.
However, few Midwest farmers have seed cleaning equipment anymore. Corporate control over seed imposes severe restrictions for replanting varieties "owned" by the major seed firms. New commercial screen-type seed cleaners typically cost $10,000 and up. One non-screen type of seed cleaner is less expensive: The Sosnowski unit built in Poland. It's sold in the USA by the Friendly Meadows retailer at Millersburg, Ohio (330-473-7647). Their website offers details on sizes and prices. The model shown here retails for less than $3,000.
One of our neighbors, Earl Canfield of Canfield Family Farm, cleans his own oats and other non-GMO crops, marketing them locally. He tells us his family is having more enjoyment farming this way the past three years — with non-GMO and specialty crops like popcorn — than the whole first decade or two of his farming career.
Earl is a close observer of grain cleaning and related equipment, and has his own cleaning setup at the farm. He shared with us these links to builders and marketers of grain cleaning and processing equipment: