Saturday, March 17, 2012

Germination Test

It may be St. Patrick’s Day, but you would never know it around this Scandinavian household.  The only thing that is green around here are germination samples (and the sprouting grass – yay spring!)

Yes, germination samples.

A few weeks ago, Travis had to conduct a little science experiment.  He was to complete a germination test to determine whether the wheat seed that had been saved from harvest last fall in the grain bin was ‘good’ and would sprout when planted in the field later this spring.

He took a dry paper towel and placed 10 seeds in 10 rows to get 100 samples total.


He then folded the paper towel in half so that the samples were in between the layers of paper towel, got it soaking wet and rolled it up.



Next, the wet paper towel roll was rolled in a layer of wax paper to keep it from drying out and placed in a warm, south facing window sill.


Every night Travis would move it away from the window so that it wouldn’t get too cold.  He would also periodically pour more water on the paper towel so that the samples would stay moist.

After 4 days, this is what he had:


At least he knew some of the seeds were good!  He gave them a couple more days to sprout, and then unrolled the paper towel to check the germination rate.


He didn’t count each and every one like a real scientist would, but by looking all of them over, almost all of the seeds had sprouted or were starting to.  Then Charlie picked each and every sample off of the paper towel and examine it - further justification as to why I did not start seedlings in the house for the garden this year.

According to my father-in-law, good seed will germinate with close to a 100% success rate.  Travis and his dad were looking for at least 90%.  Had the seed not produced an adequate success rate, we would have had to look at purchasing seed rather than using what was in the grain bin, which would have been more of an expense.

The next step after determining that seed was good for planting was to get it cleaned.  Cleaning seed is more like sorting than cleaning.  A guy that owns a grain cleaning machine came to the farm Thursday to clean the wheat for spring planting.


The way it works is that the yellow auger carries the seed from the grain bin to the green grain cart (in the back of the photo).  The seed moves from the grain cart to the machine, which is really comprised of a couple of different machines that sort out the largest seeds, or good seed, from the small seeds and other debris using screens, a tumbler, and some other mechanisms that I couldn’t really get explained to me well due to the loud, deafening noise of all of the motors working at once.  Hearing loss is prevalent among farmers.


After moving through the machine, the good seed was augered (not sure if that is a word) into the blue grain truck, or “Old Blue” as I have named him, and the bad seed was augered into the white grain truck.

So there you have it!  That’s how you prepare wheat seed for planting.  Soon Travis and his dad will be out in the field prepping the soil.  They can hardly handle the anticipation.

Tune in next week for another 7th grade science experiment – or not.

Dana

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