Pollinator Paradise      Leafcutting bees & alfalfa    The Solitary Bee Web   
   New Mexico Native Bee Pollinator Project   Nampa Farmer's Market  About Dr. Strickler
Research Philosophy     Relationships


After harvest, alfalfa seed is transported to a seed company where it goes through a series of machines to separate weed and damaged seed from good seed. These machines include a vertical blower and shaking gravity tables that separate lighter damaged seed and heavier pieces of stem from the good seed.  Depending on the weed species present, machines are used to separate rougher seed by moving it over velvet-covered rollers or by treating with iron filings that attach to some weed seeds, and then separating them with electromagnetism. While these machines are effective at removing bad seed, they also inevitably remove some good seed as well. The rougher the treatment of harvested seed, the more good seed is lost.

Growers would welcome an improvement in screening methods that would sacrifice less good seed in the separation process. This could increase their yields and avoid wasting good seed. More important, growers need to use effective management in their fields to avoid weeds and seed damage in the first place.


In 1999, the University of Idaho changed its tenure and promotion procedure to require a professional portfolio including the candidate's research philosophy, and to allow the candidate an opportunity to respond to evaluations by department heads, college deans, and the Provost.  These measures can be viewed as a way of reducing the loss of good seed in a process meant to separate out bad seed. Is the University doing enough to manage its fields so seed is not damaged in the first place?

Is this a case of bad seed, bad screening, or bad field management?

 more ...

back to Parables...

Copyright December 7, 2002, Karen Strickler.  All rights reserved.