When I cut vegetables I don’t see blue seeds so why are the seeds we are planting blue?
This is a question asked by Mina a student of the Unique Child International School during our school gardening stop at her school. And I am sure a lot more are baffled by the blue seeds they encounter but yet to inquire. Here is my attempt to answer.
If you stop and think about it, germination is a pretty awesome thing. We take a teeny tiny little seed, stick it in the ground, wait a few days, and we start to see a little plant pop out of the dirt.
To some extent, the success of those tiny seeds just has to be left up to fate. But there are a lot of dangers that the seed and plant have to survive those first few weeks. We have tools to limit the risks to those seeds and help those little plants get a good start. One way is through the use of seed treatments.
How do seed treatments help?
Seed treatments are applied for a variety of problems that the seed or brand new plant may encounter upon planting. All seeds, whether they contain genetically engineered traits or not, may have treatment options available. Conventional crops, including hybrids that are not considered GMO, can be treated. And yes, even organic farmers use some types of seed treatment. The goal is to protect the seed once it is put into the ground so it can grow into a strong and healthy plant. Imagine all of the potential problems that seed may encounter out in nature – insects, disease, bacteria and fungus.
I asked my friend and Pioneer seed salesman George to give me the scoop on the different options available for farmers. According to George, the basic seed treatments include fungicides and insecticides applied to prevent early disease and insect feeding. Farmers can also choose to have additional treatment that will help the seed germinate, target certain microscopic insects like nematodes, or protect the seed from fungal pathogens, such as phytopthora root rot and seed corn maggots.
In organic farming, the seed treatments are for a slightly different purpose, which also means the result is different. But these include priming, pelletizing, and the use of hot water or NOP-compliant protectants.
Are seed treatments safe?
Much like every other aspect of agriculture, there are strict guidelines and regulations imposed by government through the Environmental Protection Agency.
There are also substances treated on seeds that are not allowed to be used for food, feed, or oil products. That means you won’t find those types of treatments on any seeds which will eventually turn into food for human consumption.
As always, it is important to remember that the dose matters. The amount of the fungicide or insecticide applied to the seeds is very small. The seed isn’t very big and doesn’t need much of the treatment. The efficacy of the seed treatment is usually gone within 4 to 5 weeks. Once the plant gets a little bigger it develops a natural ability to protect itself from most of these concerns.
Finally, it may be worth noting that when the crop is harvested in the field — regardless of the purpose — there is no coating on the seeds. Just because a little seed was put into the ground with some type of treatment does not mean the crop will come out of the field with a seed treatment on it. If you walked into any corn field that started with seed treatment, you would easily see that the kernels of corn are a golden color, not blue or pink or purple.
Why the color?
The seed in the photo above is blue-green, but seed treatments can come in an array of colors – blue, green, pink, or purple. Enoch, a farmer Aburi, explained that although the treatment is put on to protect the seed, the colors act like a type of code that clues the farmer into what type of seed is being used. For example, seeds that have the Round-Up Ready genetic traits may be dyed green. Seeds that use the Liberty Link genetic traits may be colored purple.
This way, even if the seeds are no longer in the packaging, a farmer can quickly and easily identify the type of seed being used.
For more tips, join the Let’s Go Farming team as we journey through schools in Ghana to introduce them to agriculture through school gardening, nutritional education games, tree planting and care for the environment. Watch us on TV3 every Saturday at 4pm or on our Youtube page, Letsgofarmingtv. We cannot wait to hear from you via our social media platforms @lgftv.ghana (Instagram) or via email – [email protected]