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06. Seed processing

After seed harvest, sugar beet seed is far from ready for the grower so the seed has to go through many processes to ensure that it becomes the nice round blue "pellet" for which we are known around the world.

Step 1: Pre-cleaning

Raw seed lots have sticks, weed seeds, sugar beet seeds that are too large or too small and other inert materials that need to be removed. After this removal process which we call “pre-cleaning” process the seed is shipped to our factories in Tienen (Belgium), Kiev (Ukraine), Alexeyevka (Russia) and to our partners in the US and Turkey.

Step 2: Cleaning

When the batch of seeds arrives at the factory, we again have to extract the best part.

First, we blend all the octabins of one seed lot to ensure that the batch is as homogeneous as possible. During this cleaning, the remaining waste, such as small twigs, dried earth and foreign seeds, is removed. Seeds that are too small, too big or bigerm are then screened out. In this way, we try to avoid empty patches in the field.

Sugar beet seed is very rough and irregular in shape and the seed coat or the so-called “pericarp” contains natural germination inhibitors. Some of the seeds are empty or have partially-filled embryos.

The goal of the seed processing team is to remove the excess pericarp and germination inhibitors with specially designed polishers, then size and gravity the seeds to segregate and collect only those well-filled, normal sized seeds.

The SESVanderHave seed quality laboratory is constantly evaluating seeds after harvest and each step in the processing to assure the germination, vigour, cold tolerance, and seed weight reflect the best quality seeds possible. All data is stored in a central database with full traceability, and final quality is assessed using well-defined industry standards.

Step 3: Priming

Priming means that the seeds are ‘pre-germinated’ to ensure faster and more homogeneous field germination.

When the seeds are primed, the germination process is set in motion. This germination process has to terminate just before ‘the point of no return’, in other words the point at which the seed actually starts to germinate.

Priming offers a number of advantages. The seeds emerge more quickly than unprimed seeds, even in extreme cold or drought. In addition, priming also ensures more homogeneous emergence

In other words, the beet will be more uniform in size, making lifting easier. In addition, as all seeds emerge in a short time frame, seedlings and plantlets are similar in size resulting in a more efficient weed control.

Once the seeds have been primed, a sample is sent to the quality lab. There, tests are set up, including thorough testing of vigour, calibre and moisture content. Seeds that don’t meet the very high quality standards are eliminated.

Step 4: Pelleting

High quality primed seed is still irregular in thickness and diameter, and requires a specialized pelleting process to create a standardized round product. Seed pelleting optimizes plantability and accurate seed spacing. Because each seed is unique, the pelleting process demands constant monitoring and adjustment by an operator. Pellets are then screened so they are the correct size. Following the pelleting operation, another sample is taken and analysed for moisture content, vigour, and germination in the quality lab.

Thanks to these extensive quality control checks and the rigorous production process, SESVanderHave has obtained for quite some time now the prestigious ESTA label by the European Seed Association. The ESTA label doesn’t only stand for seed quality, but also for quality assurance, respecting qualitative process, operator protection and environmental safety.

Step 5: Coating

The last seed processing step is coating, which involves applying a layer of requested fungicides or insecticides to the pelleted seeds to protect the variety’s yield potential. By applying them directly to the seeds, the total quantity of pesticides can be significantly reduced, which makes sugar beet growing more environmentally friendly. SESVanderHave’s iconic blue colour is now applied to assist in checking planting depth and seed spacing in the field during planting.

After this process, the seeds have to be dried to prevent germination. They are then bulk-packed in octabins again, and a sample is sent to the quality lab. There, the seeds are tested one final time for vigour, size, pesticide application and moisture content.

Step 6: Packaging

Once the seeds have passed extensive quality standards at every stage in the production process, they can finally be weighed, packaged, and labelled. We have developed a label which contains all the necessary information such as variety information, seed quality, seed size, any applied treatments, and other necessary seed industry information.

This is how SESVanderHave produces, day in and day out, sugar beet seed that meets the specific needs of growers and the sugar industry. SESVanderHave has already brought hundreds of successful varieties onto the market, and will continue to develop many more in the future!