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Bühler sets new standards in soybean seed cleaning

02/16/2012

Seed processors are looking to SORTEX sorters to produce higher quality seeds.

As the global population continues to grow at an astounding rate, the increasing demand for food production builds pressure on the world’s resources of land, water and fuel. To overcome this challenge farmers are having to make the most efficient use of their limited resources, and are increasingly seeking higher yielding seeds from their suppliers. Utilizing the positive input from the seed industry and its suppliers, farmers have capitalized on advances in technology and farming techniques to achieve vast improvements in crop yields over the past few decades. Bühler is proud to be a contributor to this revolution, committing substantial investment to research & development to continue its role in delivering innovative technologies to the seed industry.

Since 1947, Bühler has provided sorting solutions to seed processors who demand the highest standards of seed quality required by their growers. With a focus on improving the overall appearance of seed lots and maximizing the seed yield, both in terms of seed cleaning and germination in the fields, the SORTEX range has helped boost the marketability of many varieties of agricultural seeds; including field crops, vegetable seeds, lawn seeds and many others.

Not content with its own estimation of these benefits, Bühler recently went to its seed customers to learn first hand how SORTEX sorters have added value to their processes.

Ray Hurt, of Hurt Seeds in Halls Tennessee, a supplier of branded seeds to major seed companies including Monsanto, explained why he recently installed two SORTEX Z+ colour sorters in his plant. “The color sorters are yet another mode of action to optimize the seed cleaning process. Typical cleaning techniques include sorting by density, length, width, thickness, and shape, which helps to improve germination levels in the seed lots. However, color and shape help to improve both germination and visual appearance and therefore overall perception of seed quality. It also ensures all of the branded seeds that I supply ‘look’ the same.”

Ray also claims that the SORTEX has been highly effective in detecting foreign material that no other cleaning mode can detect. “For our soybean applications it has been particularly useful in removal of corn seed and balloon vine*.” He explains that this function is of critical importance in areas where balloon vine can render lots completely unusable, creating huge additional costs - “The Japanese and Koreans have zero tolerance for this contaminant and if it is present, they will send the entire lot back to the supplier”.

Matt Henderson of Tennessee Cooperative, located next to Hurt Seeds, processes soybean and wheat seeds and sells products under the Croplan brand. Mr Henderson also owns a SORTEX Z+ with interest in adding shape sorting capabilities to his current machine as an additional measure for quality assurance, such as oblong soybean detection. The technology has been proven to significantly reduce these defects. The reason the misshapen seeds are considered a defect is because studies have shown that lighter weight seeds, such as oblongs, show lower germination rates than heavier seeds. “Although oblong soybeans really are an issue about 1 out of every 5 seasons*, when it does occur, appropriate measures need to be taken to reduce its presence.” says Matt. In reality, the true affect on germination due to these contaminants, in terms of how many oblongs actually are in a batch of good seeds, is likely to affect 1/10 of one percent, but visually farmers do not want to see it in their seed lots. “A single oblong seed will stick out like a sore thumb among 1000 good seeds,” added Ray Hurt. “Its more of an issue now more than ever since soybean prices are so high; historically, one 50lb bag of soybeans would cost a farmer $8, today its more like $45-$48 so they want every seed to count.”

The SORTEX sorters are also utilized at both plants for wheat seed applications. It’s even proven effective for lots contaminated with Fusarium, also known as Tomb Stone or Head Scab. The diseased seeds are pink in color and will not germinate. “With the color sorter, I’m able to target these defects which can take a lot of seeds from 60% germination to 80%,” Mr Henderson states.

The SORTEX Z+ has achieved unparalleled success in selecting the highest quality seeds with a combination of advanced technologies, including visible cameras, enhanced InGaAs and PROfile shape. It delivers a very high efficiency in the removal of visual characteristics associated with lower germination rates such as diseased, insect-damaged, misshapen or broken seeds and foreign material including mud balls, sticks, stones, hull, shell and other seed types. Our product manager, Faisal Baig, knows more than most of the dexterity this offers our customers - “It can even remove the most challenging of defects such as oblong soybeans, bleeding hilum or seed corn from soybeans, DON from wheat and barley, mud balls from linseed and sclerotia from all seed types, even un-decorticated sunflower and beans”. As Mr Hurt and Mr Henderson have explained, the value this adds to our customers is what sets SORTEX sorters apart.

All the features and applications are designed with one purpose in mind - improving yield. With opportunities in the crop field as well as the seed cleaning process it has become the core focus of the seed industry, and seed processors are always looking for more innovative and cost effective ways to clean their seeds. Just over 300 miles northwest of Halls, Tennesee is the town of Tuscola, Illinois where Kevin Kaiser manages one of Syngenta’s soybean processing plants. At their state of the art facility you’ll find their goal is no different, which is why it’s home to two SORTEX Z+ sorters and several other mechanical cleaners that help maximize the seed cleaning process. When asked why he elected to add color sorters to his cleaning line, Kevin replied “sorters are considerably more effective in minimizing good product loss compared to other methods of cleaning when targeting certain defects… In a season with challenging quality our sorters could pay for themselves in one season.” Ray Hurt would agree, “The benefit of the color sorter versus other mechanical cleaners is the yield. With the SORTEX, there is minimal product loss so the yield is much higher.” Ray claims that a spiral, which is used to remove oblongs, would typically generate a reject concentration of 7 bad to 3 good, a SORTEX is more like 9 bad to 1 good. “Our reject stream off the SORTEX is so concentrated that instituting a resort of the reject stream to reclaim good product is not economically justifiable."

Performance ranks high in terms of deciding which color sorter to buy, however ease-of-use and set up are also important. The SORTEX Z series are equipped with a large touch-screen control panel making control of the sorter clear, logical and simple. The display supports all major languages and includes on-screen help. “What I like most about the SORTEX is that you do not have to re-calibrate the sorter manually,” Mr Hurt continues, “also since the SORTEX is a true bichromatic sorter, as apposed to competitor machines, you do not have to change filters to target different defects, this enables me to achieve an ‘all in one sort’ in a single pass making our job a lot easier.” Mr Henderson adds “I also like the fact that you can save an unlimited number of modes for different seed applications, this makes switching from our soybeans seeds to wheat seeds convenient and easy with minimal downtime.”

Producing great machines, however, is only half of the story for Bühler, for when it comes to customer service our motto is clear: Customer Satisfaction is our number one goal. As our customers will attest, we take great strides to achieve just that. Tom Condron, the Machine Operator at the Syngenta Tuscola plant sites it as our greatest asset - “The number one reason I would buy another SORTEX is service and support. When I call the office the customer service representatives know me by name and I know they’ll take good care of me, the service is great.” Both Hurt Seeds and Tennessee co-op purchased their SORTEX Z+ machines based on referrals from SORTEX customers who were thrilled with the machine and support. Now that they have experienced it first hand they are happy to make the same recommendations “I expect great support from our suppliers, however, the service I receive from Bühler is above and beyond,” explains Mr Henderson, “I was very impressed to see a Bühler engineer just drop by to check in and see how things were going just because he ‘happened’ to be in the neighbourhood!”

As farmers demand higher and higher seed quality and greater yields in the fields, it is clear that the SORTEX Z series will help seed producers stay ahead of the competition, even when faced with the most demanding industry requirements. As we continue to strive to develop more innovative and efficient ways to improve seed quality, you can be assured we won’t just be a supplier of top performing equipment; we will also be your partner.

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