Research at USDA shows seedling success sometimes depends on a good coverup. USDA Ag Research Service Plant Physiologist Russ Gesch has found that sowing seeds protected by a thin polymer layer can help farmers in the northern Corn Belt optimize spring planting schedules. In northern U.S. states like Minnesota – early spring planting in cold and wet soils can damage seeds. When farmers plant later in the season – a cold snap can interfere with seed response and result in poor plant emergence and poor yields. Gesch conducted several field studies to compare the performance of coated and uncoated seeds planted in early spring and late spring. The coated seeds were covered with a temperature-activated polymer that prevented water from reaching the seed until the soils were warm enough for germination and emergence.
According to USDA – in one study – the coated seeds planted in early spring had a significantly greater level of emergence and establishment than uncoated seeds planted at the same time. The rate of emergence was also faster for coated seeds. But – coated seeds planted in late spring generally had slower emergence rates than uncoated seeds planted at the same time. Gesch says these findings indicate that farmers could use coated seeds to get a jumpstart on their spring planting because the seeds would be protected from cold, wet soils until conditions favored germination and emergence. To read more about this research –
look for the March 2014 issue of Agricultural Research magazine at www dot ars dot usda dot gov (www.ars.usda.gov)