The Case for Cold Germ Seed Testing
Seed is a major investment for growers today. Seeds deliver varietal traits, herbicide and pest resistance technologies, and chemical and/or biological treatments to protect the crop from planting through harvest. Because of this complexity, the seed purchasing process can consume as much or more time and study than any other crop input. Despite this, most growers assume quality on all seed is high and consistent among lots. That’s not always true.
Seed companies do strive for quality, but not every lot is the same. When seed is produced over thousands of acres, climates, and in uncontrolled and unpredictable environments, germination quality will vary. While germination data are legally required on seed tags, what you see are the results of a standardized warm germination test. Unfortunately, that is not an accurate representation of actual field performance because early planting is common.
Yes, cold germination tests are performed on all seed lots as a part of quality control, but these results are rarely publicly available. When they are provided, comparisons across companies lack validity because no standardized test procedure is legally recognized. Each company uses its own test with unique processes and minimum standards that change with the range of results each year. Suppliers seek a balance between the goals of providing quality and maintaining adequate supply to their customers.
The best way for a farmer to minimize exposure to significant yield loss is to have a recent and uniform cold germination test on each seed lot. This allows for an informed decision, as well as a basis for decisions on planting dates.
Just as Ag Spectrum recommends testing lime, gypsum, and water to understand quality, seed germination in cold conditions is an even more yield-limiting variable. Recording actual cold germination tests is also useful in analyzing emergence issues or replant situations.
Submitted by Patrick Tomlinson, District Manager