Al Zeigler has three words for any cotton producer considering counting every seed in one of Stoneville's new 230,000 seed count bags — have at it.

Zeigler, who manages Stoneville's seed plant in Stoneville, Miss., is confident that the effort, which would burn about a day and a half, would produce a seed count no less than 230,000.

Earlier this year, Stoneville installed seed-count packaging technology in three seed plants in Stoneville, Maricopa, Ariz., and Big Springs, Texas. Bagging operations for the 2004 season are now in full swing, and Zeigler can safely say the change from 50-pound bags to seed count bags went off without a hitch.

“CA Technologies, programmed the Stoneville system,” Zeigler said. “They made adjustments as we started up and within two days, we were going without many glitches.”

Here's how the new technology works: About every 120 seconds, a sampling device makes a swipe across the seed flowing from the seed treater to a holding bin, depositing the seed into sample buckets. After a certain number of samples are taken, the buckets are taken to a laboratory where they are emptied into an electronic seed counter.

“We could have done some in-line seed counting,” Zeigler said, “but we felt like this would work better.” In fact, Zeigler says the sampling system provides a count even more reliable than expected.

Six samples are taken from each lot of seed and counted on the seed counter. The information is then fed into a computer which determines how much each bag should weigh to insure a minimum 230,000 seed count.

The seed in the holding bin is then bagged off in the predetermined weights. The bags are weighed when filled, then again when they go across a check-weigh belt. They go through a flattening and pressing process and then to an ink jet printer, which prints information on the bottom of the bag.

The switch from a 50-pound bag to a seed count bag was made because “it's more fair to growers, they understand the value, and they'll get what they pay for,” said Don Threet, vice president, Emergent Genetics, Inc. Stoneville is a brand of Emergent Genetics.

According to Stoneville, knowing exactly how many seeds are in each bag, coupled with the desired seeding rates, will allow cotton producers to order exactly what they need, thereby assuring they do not buy too much or too little seed of the varieties they intend to plant. Cotton seed within the same variety can vary significantly by region and by year.

In addition, each bulk container of Stoneville cotton seed will contain 9.2 million seeds, equivalent to 40 bags of seed.

Zeigler is confident that the count for bulk seed will be as accurate as it is for bags. A warning to the skeptic — it would take approximately 53 days to count that many seeds by hand. Might be better to trust the technology.