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After harvest, alfalfa seed is transported
to a seed company where it goes through a series of machines to separate weed and
damaged seed from good seed. These machines include a
vertical blower and shaking gravity tables that separate lighter damaged seed
and heavier pieces of stem from the good seed. Depending on the weed species present, machines are used to separate
rougher seed by moving it over velvet-covered rollers or by treating with iron
filings that attach to some weed seeds, and then separating them with
electromagnetism. While these
machines are effective at removing bad seed, they also inevitably remove some
good seed as well. The rougher the
treatment of harvested seed, the more good seed is lost.
Growers would welcome an improvement in screening methods that would
sacrifice less good seed in the separation process. This could increase their yields and avoid wasting good seed.
More important, growers need to use effective management in their fields
to avoid weeds and seed damage in the first place.
In 1999, the University of Idaho changed its tenure and promotion
procedure to require a professional portfolio including the candidate's research
philosophy, and to allow the candidate an opportunity to respond to evaluations
by department heads, college deans, and the Provost. These measures can be viewed as a way of reducing the loss of
good seed in a process meant to separate out bad seed. Is the University doing enough to manage its fields so seed is not
damaged in the first place?
Is this a case of bad seed, bad screening, or bad field management?
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Copyright © December 7, 2002, Karen Strickler. All rights reserved.