Saving, Storing and Testing Your Own Wheat Seed

September 2, 2013 09:18 AM
Saving, Storing and Testing Your Own Wheat Seed

Here are some factors to consider to help ensure quality when considering replanting saved small grain seed.

By John Rowehl, Penn State Extension

Although using certified seed is the best way to ensure quality, replanting seed from good looking grain fields is a regular practice on some farms. Here are some factors to consider for getting the best results.

Depending on how good of a job the combine did of cleaning it in the field, the weed seed content and whether it will be drilled or broadcast, you may want to have it cleaned. Be careful about weed seed infested cereals, particularly if the seed came from another farm or from another state. These weed seeds can’t be easily removed.

Seed should be dried carefully to 10 to 12% seed moisture content soon after harvesting. To minimize the effect on germination, do not dry seed at temperatures over 90°F, and do not maintain elevated temperatures any longer than is required to dry the seed.

Seeds exposed to air gain or lose water according to the relative humidity of the surrounding air. At 50% atmospheric relative humidity, the equilibrium moisture content of wheat and rye seeds is about 12%; of barley, about 11%; and of oats, about 10.5%. The equilibrium moisture content of small grain seed exposed to 70 percent relative humidity is nearly 15%. This is too high for safe storage. At 90% atmospheric relative humidity, the seed moisture content of several small grain crops swells to 20 to 23%. Viability and vigor are lost rapidly under these conditions

Although it usually is not practical to control the temperature and relative humidity of the space where seed is stored, you should pick a place where the temperatures and the humidity are as low as possible.

Heat and Humidity Are Enemies

Since small grain seed is stored over the hot weather months before use, it has the potential for infestation and damage from insects. Whether you store it in a bin, a gravity wagon, piled on a concrete floor or in bags, you should make sure that the storage has been cleaned of any old grain that may be harboring potential storage insect pests. Hopefully with dry grain and good sanitation, you won’t have a problem with insects.

Your state department of agriculture may offer seed testing services for farmers that want to plant their own home grown seed and want to know the germination and purity of it before they plant it. Or you may need to have an analysis done in order to receive payments for some cover crop incentive programs.

Cleaning and/or testing seed does not mean that you have a right to sell it to other farmers. Seed companies have rights under the Plant Variety Protection Act (PVPA). Here are a few important points to be aware of:

  • Varieties under the PVPA can only be sold or advertised for seeding by the holder of the variety certificate or with the holder’s permission.
  • Farmers can save legally purchased PVPA varieties to use for their own planting but cannot sell, trade or transfer it to others for planting purposes
  • Some commercial varieties are now patent protected, which is a different form of variety protection from PVPA. No one can replant a patented variety for any reason
  • Seed that contains a protected variety cannot be sold as generic seed or as "Variety Not Stated" This includes varieties of rye available as certified varieties.

(Source: Much of this article comes from the Mississippi State University Extension publication "Plant Variety and Protection Act and Patent Facts for Wheat Seed Growers, Dealers and Consumers")

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