Dairyland Seed tests seed crops on research plots such as the one shown here. Based on plant and seed performance, the best hybrids are used for future seasons and the weaker seeds are eliminated.
Dairyland Seed tests seed crops on research plots such as the one shown here. Based on plant and seed performance, the best hybrids are used for future seasons and the weaker seeds are eliminated.
FORT WAYNE, Ind. — Growing seed corn is a different process than growing conventional corn.

From the time the seed is planted until it is bagged, detailed procedures are followed to get seeds ready for farmers to plant in the spring. The seeds must be able to resist drought and other adverse conditions in order for farmers to succeed.

Dairyland Seed knows all about seed crops. It is based in Wisconsin and grows and sells seed crops in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

“This time of year, we are harvesting corn seed,” said Gary Freiburger, regional sales manager at Dairyland. “Hopefully, corn will be done by the end of September.”

Freiburger said corn in the spring is planted at different stages to ensure there is enough pollen at the time the female part of the plant, the ear, is receptive.

“Once that happens, they detassel the female plants because they don’t want the female plants to pollinate themselves,” he said. “So they will cut the tassel out or burn it out, depending on which system you use. You have someone walk in the field and inspect it and pull off what is missed.”

Growing seed corn takes a lot of manpower. Fields are inspected at least once a week to check for potential problems.

In contrast, commercial farmers inspect fields less often. They normally focus on scouting fields at the beginning of the season to make sure crops are growing, Freiburger said.

Seed corn is sensitive to certain diseases, so while in the field seed corn growers must apply more fungicides than a commercial grower, he said.

When it comes time to harvest, only the ear is picked.

“With commercial, you’d run a combine through it, shell it off and just have the kernels that you take to the elevators to dry,” Freiburger explained. “With seed production, you actually take a sweet corn harvester and pull off ears and the fodder around the ear, so you do very little damage to that kernel.”

After picking the corn, it is taken to a husking area in a production facility. The corn is inspected by at least a dozen people.

Cobs that look damaged or strange are pulled and thrown out. The remaining corn goes on to be dried.

“It’s a double-pass system where they force the heat and air one way and turn around and force the heat and air the other way — that way it is uniformly dry,” Freiburger said. “After that, they shell it and take it up into the tower to condition it. There are a lot of steps.”

Once it is dried, it goes to the sheller, and seeds are separated based on size. From there, it is treated with fungicides and pesticides and moves on to packaging.

The soybean side of the seed business focuses heavily on careful inspection of fields.

“There are some leaf-eating insects in the very early stages of beans. We try to kill those because they affect seed quality,” Freiburger said. “We try to protect seed quality all the way through its life.”

Volunteer corn and certain weeds cannot be in a field full of soybean seed crops. State and business inspectors make sure the crop is grown under the right conditions.

Freiburger said that a commercial bean grower doesn’t spray as often, remove as many weeds or worry about volunteer corn as much as a seed grower.

For more information on Dairyland Seed, visit www.dairylandseed.com.