Baby Those Beans

May 28, 2009 07:00 PM

Pam Smith, Farm Journal Seeds & Production Editor
Yeah…yeah…you're in a hurry. The season is late and the planter is waiting. Slinging those bags of seed beans may save you a few minutes in the race to the field, but what is the practice costing you in the long run?

Del Voigt, Pennsylvania State University grain crop specialist, warns farmers that manhandling soybean seed almost always results in some amount of quality reduction. "The soybean seed has two halves that are easily broken,” says Voigt. "Those halves are the structures of the plant that end up being the cotyledons.”
Farm Journal field agronomist Ken Ferrie learned this cracked soybean equation in his college days when he tested the theory by dropping bags of seed beans from the tailgate of a pickup truck. This was no farm boy college prank. "Germination losses were high, sometimes shockingly high, when the seed was dropped and mistreated,” he says.
Voight says Penn State studies over the past few years have led to the observation that established soybean populations struggled from the time they dropped out of the planter to the time they came up. In some cases, a 30% loss from seed drop to emergence was observed, while losses from seedling pop up to mid-season were only 4%. "If there aren't any pests, where do the losses come from,” he asks.
He believes a lot of it has to do with soybean seed handling. There's not a lot of hard and fast numbers to prove all this, but Voight recalls Elwood Hatley, retired PSU extension specialist, cautioning growers that each time a seed bag is dropped, 2% or more of the germination can suffer. Machinery used in bulk handling is equally as important.
Every year growers race to purchase varieties with the best germ test. Soybean seed produced for the 2009 season mostly tested 90% or better. That's good news. "The point is handle them [soybeans] like you handle eggs from the chicken house,” Voight says.

You can email Pam Smith at

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