Focus On Seed Quality
In 2008, we wrapped up our multi-year plot effort studying seed quality and the impact seed size and shape have on vigor and emergence. The bulk of the data was gathered from replicated plots evaluating five seed sizes planted by one planter. Rounding out the data were scores captured by sending seed samples gathered from other non-seed-related plots to a trusted testing lab.
For the past three years, the seed for our seed quality plot was provided from the same lot and production field. Since different seed sizes and shapes are sourced from different areas of the cob, our seeds could have come from the same ears, assuring similarities within the seed's potential.
"In the past, round seed has been the easier seed to plant," says Farm Journal Field Agronomist Ken Ferrie. "But the technology in planters has changed to the point that we can now handle all seed sizes with success."
Even so, Ferrie encourages farmers to know as much as possible about the quality standards seed companies set.
"Quality is job No. 1, and it's right up there with safety," explains Gary Lawrance, quality testing manager for Pioneer Hi-Bred. "All [who work] in seed production at Pioneer have quality on their minds 100% of the time."
Quality standards and procedures provide reassurance in the overall strength of the industry, but it's not a guarantee all seed is rated equal or will maintain its condition.
Seed scores. The standard germination test listed on the bag by seed companies is based on a warm germination test. Knowing that most farmers don't always have the good fortune to plant in ideal conditions, we looked at other scores, as well. In addition to warm germination, we also tested for cold germination, saturated cold germination and accelerated aging score.
Saturated cold germination predicts emergence when seed is planted in cold wet conditions. The accelerated aging test measures plant vigor while predicting emergence and storability.
"You don't want to always focus on warm germination scores," Ferrie says. "This plot expanded the view to other scores to see if all seed is created equal. We've found that the accelerated aging results are a good indicator of plant emergence. Strong plant emergence tends to lead to higher populations and, in turn, better yields."