Comparing Seed Lubricants

Seed lubricants play a key role in the plantability of seed. While there are many on the market, realize different types of lubricant serve different purposes depending on the seed treatment and planter being used. This is primarily dependent on the physical characteristics of each lubricant and how they interact with both the micro-environment created inside a planter unit and the mechanical properties of that planter unit. I’ll cover the different properties of common seed lubricants and how they improve plantability in different conditions.

The Challenge
  • Seed treatments are hygroscopic (they love water). Increased seed surface area enables more moisture to be absorbed.
  • Bulk fill and vacuum planters move a lot of air and can introduce humidity to the seed. Humidity is magnified by large volumes of air flow. Additionally, the air is heated by the fans allowing the “planter air” to hold more water.
  • Plates and seed tubes are primarily made of different types of plastic. Seeds rub in high volume against these components creating static electricity.

Common Seed Lubricants
  • GRAPHITE: Serves as lubricant to decrease wear in mechanical parts. It acts as an electrical conductor (grounds electricity to metal planter parts). Too much graphite dirties sensors, is messy, causes seed skips and settles out.
  • TALC: Acts as a drying agent. It fills hygroscopic pores and dries out the seed surface preventing more moisture from being absorbed. Talc is an electrical insulator (doesn’t transfer static). Too much talc does no detrimental damage to the planter, but will blow off into the atmosphere and carry insecticide offsite.
  • SuperFLOW™ (wax-based polyethylene powder): Serves as a lubricant to decrease wear in mechanical parts. It acts as an electrical insulator. The product itself has low water absorption (unlike talc) and reduces dust-off of seed treatment with a low use rate. Too much SuperFLOW can cause seed skips and settles out.

Burrus routinely adjusts its PowerShield® seed treatment on both corn and soybeans to deliver the best performance while also targeting a 3 to 1 return on investment. With this recent change, our soybean PowerShield treatment is waxier in comparison to previous iterations. In years past, SuperFLOW was routinely recommended with soybeans to improve plantability however, with SuperFLOW being a wax-based lubricant it can cause excessive stickiness when used in combination our soybean PowerShield treatment.

This article was originally published in the 2020 Burrus Harvest Report.

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