University of Arkansas dedicates new foundation seed plant

new foundation seed plantFlanked by members of Arkansas’  rice, soybean and wheat promotion boards, officials with the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture dedicated a new foundation seed processing plant, Aug. 9, outside of Stuttgart.

The state-of-the-art plant, which was built on university property just southeast of the Rice Research and Extension Center, replaces an antiquated one built in 1951.

Ground was broken for the new facility one year ago, and officials plan to use it to process this year’s seed crop.

“I hope to be cutting rice in the next two weeks and we’ll be bringing seed here,” says Dr. Chuck Wilson, director of the Northeast Research and Extension Center in Keiser. Wilson was director of the Rice Research and Extension Center during planning and much of the project’s construction.

For Marvin Hare, a Newport, Ark., rice and soybean producer who sits on the Rice Research and Promotion Board, the facility was long overdue.

“The key to having good seed is having good seed,” he says. “It has to be clean, and it can’t be mixed and can’t be contaminated with other varieties. This is going to alleviate any of the problems we’ve had in the past. It should make Arkansas foundation seed as good as anybody’s seed in the world.”

ribbon cutting
Officials with the University of Arkansas and soybean, rice and wheat promotion boards dedicate the foundation seed plant with a ceremonial ribbon cutting.

Joe Christian, who farms near Cash, Ark., calls the facility a “win for everybody.”

“We need quality seed, and to get that you need a facility like this,” he says. “Our old one was over 50 years old and we were going to have to upgrade it or get out of it altogether.”

Gary Sitzer, chairman of the Soybean Research Board, says the state’s soybean growers need as many options as possible to remain competitive, whether conventional varieties, specialty varieties or genetically modified varieties that have come off patent.

“To run that kind of program and get the seeds out the door, this plant will be a big part of it,” says Sitzer, a rice and soybean grower near Weiner, Ark.

University of Arkansas’ foundation seed program typically handles eight to 10 rice varieties, eight to 12 soybean varieties, and one to two wheat varieties each year. The seed includes both breeder and foundation seed, with the foundation seed destined for growers of registered seed.

“Because we produce the parent seed, it must be pure,” says Mark Cochran, vice president of the College of Agriculture in Fayetteville. “That’s one of the pivotal reasons we needed a new facility.”

seed jars
Brent Farmer (right) with the contractor, Flintco, gives commemorative jars containing rice, soybean and wheat seeds to Clarence Watson (center) and Chuck Wilson.

State-of-the-art equipment

The new plant can clean and process up to 250 bushels per hour compared to the old facility’s capacity of 100 bushels per hour. A touchscreen LCD panel controls all of the equipment.

The new facility comprises 20 seed bins, each with a capacity of 1,300 bushels, for a total capacity of 26,000 bushels.

When seed comes in by truck, it is dumped into a pit and moves by conveyor to the top of the six-story plant. It can either be conveyed into one of the bins for drying and storage or moved through the cleaning process.

Depending on the amount of non-seed debris, the load may be first run through pre-cleaners before being run through cleaners.

Wheat and rice then go through sizers that kick out kernels either too wide or too long. Soybeans are run through spirals to cull any seeds that are not round.

The adjoining warehouse can store up to 27,000 bushels stacked three high. A modular cold room also is planned and is expected to be delivered and installed in October.

The $8.6 million facility was funded by the Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board, the Arkansas Wheat Promotion Board, and the Arkansas Rice Research and Promotion Board. In addition, general improvement funds from the state of Arkansas also helped fund the project.

—Vicky Boyd, Editor

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