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North Central Research Extension Center completed seed conditioning plant

Minot research center gets latest equipment

Jill Schramm/MDN The new seed conditioning facility at the NDSU North Central Research Extension Center Equipment includes a massive collection of equipment that cleans seed, including sorting by size and color. Standing on the equipment platform is Center Director Shana Forster.

The NDSU North Central Research Extension Center in Minot celebrated the completion of a new seed conditioning facility during its field day in July.

The plant had been first discussed in 2008, and a capital drive kicked off after authorization by the 2015 Legislature, which granted $750,000 in state funds. The center also received funding assistance from Ward and Renville counties and the Mountrail Job Development Authority toward the $2.25 million project.

Completing the facility took longer than she would have liked but that hasn’t been all bad, said Center Director Shana Forster.

“If we would have gotten funded right away, the technology would have been obsolete almost by now,” she said. “So we have more advanced technology.

“The one key component, which I call the exclamation point of seed conditioning is that optical sorter, which is able to distinguish between size, shape and color of seed. For example we can get hard red spring wheat out of durum wheat. No other type of cleaning equipment is going to be able to get it out because it’s the same size. And there’s such a low threshold for wheat in durum for foundation-grade seed,” she said. “Getting yellow flax out of brown flax – again, they’re the same exact size. So the only way to get that out is using that color sorter that can actually eliminate those yellow seeds from the brown, or vice versa.”

Jill Schramm/MDN Seed bins that feed into cleaning equipment stand outside the new seed conditioning building.

Every percentage improvement in separation that brings seed closer to purity is important, she said.

“What we are going for is as close to perfection as we can, giving the best genetics, clean seed, weed-free seed,” Forster said.

The seed facility enables the research center to provide foundation-grade seed from varieties developed at North Dakota State University to growers looking to refresh seed or who in turn produce certified or registered seed for farmers. The center also occasionally brings in seed from neighboring states to grow for foundation-grade seed for North Dakota farmers.

The impact of the new facility is widespread because it provides the seed that ultimately is grown on farms across the state and sometimes in neighboring states, Forster said.

“Everyone’s going to benefit from it at some point,” she said. “Even if they don’t buy this foundation-grade seed from us directly, they’re probably going to buy it from someone who grew it as certified or registered.”

Forster said the Minot center’s former seed plant was designed for small grains at a time when those were the main crops in the region.

“That was in the ’80s when we didn’t have field peas; we didn’t have soybeans in this area,” she said. “We have more diverse crops. They have to be conditioned in a different way, but we can pretty much process any type of seed that we’re going to grow.”

Depending on the year, the Minot center grows 10 to 12 different crops and about 30 different crop varieties. The Minot center has about 1,200 acres planted to crops grown for seed.

Because this year’s harvest hasn’t started, the center hasn’t put the new plant into use yet, other than for testing.

The Williston research center also recently cut the ribbon on a new seed conditioning facility.

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