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Seed And Chaff Separation – How To Separate Seed From Chaff

Seed And Chaff Separation – How To Separate Seed From Chaff


Have you heard of the phrase ‘separating the wheat from the chaff’? It’s likely that you didn’t give too much thought to the saying, but the origins of this adage are not only ancient but essential to harvesting cereal crops. Basically, it refers to separating seeds from chaff. What is chaff and why is seed and chaff separation important?

About Separating Seeds from Chaff

Before we get to the definition of chaff, a little background on the make-up of cereal crops such as wheat, rice, barley, oats, and others is helpful. Cereal crops are made up of the seed or the grain kernel that we eat and an inedible hull or husk surrounding it. Seed and chaff separation is imperative because in order to process and eat the grain kernel, the inedible hull needs to be removed. This is a two-step process involving threshing and winnowing.

Threshing means loosening the hull from the grain kernel while winnowing means to get rid of the hull. Winnowing can’t very well occur without threshing first, although some grains have a thin papery hull that is easily removed so little threshing is required. If this is the case, traditionally, farmers would just toss the grain into the air and allow the air current to blow the thin hulls, or chaff, away in the wind or to fall through the slats of the basket.

This wind assisted process of removing the chaff from the grain is called winnowing and the grains with little to no hull are called ‘naked’ grains. So, to answer the question of what is chaff, it is the inedible hull surrounding the grain.

How to Separate Seed from Chaff

Obviously, if you are growing naked grains, removing the chaff is as easy as described above. Keep in mind that this works best if there is a significant difference in the weight of the seeds and the chaff. A fan will also work to blow the chaff from the seeds. Before winnowing in this manner, lay a tarp on the ground. Place a cooking sheet on the tarp and then from a few feet (1 m.) up, pour the seed slowly onto the baking sheet. Repeat as necessary until all the chaff is gone.

Another method of separating the seed from the chaff is called “roll and fly.” It works best for round, ball-like seeds. Again, it uses moving air to clean the seeds but a fan, your breath, or a cool blow dryer work best. Lay out a tarp or sheet and put a flat box in the center. Put the seed and chaff on a cookie sheet and place the cookie sheet on the box. Turn a fan on so the air blows across it and lift the end of the cookie sheet so the seeds roll down. If need be, repeat until the chaff has blown off.

Sieves can also work to winnow the chaff from the seed. Stack the sieves with the largest at the top and the smallest underneath. Pour the seed and chaff mix into the upper sieve and shake it around into the smaller sieve. The smaller sieve should collect the seed while the chaff remains in the larger sieve.

There are certainly other methods for separating the seed from the chaff, none of them particularly complex. If, however, you have a larger crop of seed that needs to be winnowed, it might be helpful to have a friend or two to assist since the time to winnow in this manner can be time consuming.


Separating chaff -a new way?

Thought I found a great way to remove chaff from my sweet william seed- static electricity. Seems like the chaff always stuck to my containers from static electricity and so I thought maybe I could use static electricity to get rid of the chaff in my seeds. Drawing on an old trick we used to do with balloons I blew up a balloon and rubbed it through my hair to build up the static in the balloon. I held it over the seeds and voila the chaff literally jumped onto the balloon. I brushed the chaff from the ballon and repeated the process. This worked great until-POP! I guess some of the chaff is like little needles. Anybody know of something else that might hold static electricity and won't pop.


How do you separate zinnia seeds from chaff?

Cleaning dry seeds usually involves simply drying and crumbling the pods or husks, then screening or 'winnowing' the seeds to separate them from the chaff. Chaff- the seed coverings and other debris separated from the seed in threshing grain.

One may also ask, how do you get seeds from Yarrow? Collecting Seed The easiest way is to collect seed from yarrow is to place a brown paper bag over the seed head and secure it lower down on the stalk with a piece of twine. Snap the stalk off with the seed head inside and leave it in a dry place for a week or two to make sure the seeds have completely dried out.

Consequently, how do you get seeds from zinnias?

  1. Stop deadheading zinnias at the end of the summer to allow the flowers to develop seeds.
  2. Carry small paper or plastic bags into the garden in the fall, preferably on a dry day with little wind.
  3. Hold a bag or container under each seed head and snip off the seed heads with pruners, letting them fall into the container.

How do you separate good seeds from bad seeds?

The seeds that are still able to germinate will sink to the bottom of the container while the bad seeds will remain floating on top. Scoop the bad seeds off the top of the water, and plant the seeds on the bottom as soon as possible.


More Examples

This excerpt uses the idiom in an article about a budget crisis that resulted in laying off teachers.

  • It’s not based on which teachers perform best. It’s called Last-In, First-Out, or LIFO. The LIFO provision means that when the budget ax must fall, it will fall exclusively on the newest teachers. There’s no other metric for eliminating teachers in a crisis — not talent, not energy, not potential. Imagine any other business in which the only consideration for laying off employees is the number of years they’ve worked. In Santa Ana, to paraphrase the old Spanish saying, we separate the wheat from the chaff — and throw out the wheat. –OC Register

This excerpt is from an article about genetically modified food.

  • There’s plenty to worry about when it comes to relying on technology rather than sustainable farming methods. But it won’t be a healthy debate until we separate the wheat from the chaff. –LA Times


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