Seed Tests Confirm Quality

January 25, 2013 08:15 PM

Analyses can help pinpoint problems and solutions

What you see is what you get, so the saying goes. But that’s not necessarily true when assessing seed quality. While each bag of corn and soybean seed undergoes rigorous testing before it ever reaches your farm, it can still have a quality issue that you might not see until after planting.

Making an investment in seed testing prior to planting can head off problems or, postplanting, determine what went wrong, according to Denise Thiede, vice president of BioDiagnostics, Inc., in River Falls, Wis.

She says sometimes a test reveals an issue as straightforward, though painful, as the wrong herbicide applied to your crop and mortality occurring. That means the seed probably didn’t contain tolerance to the herbicide-active ingredient. Or, if dead plants appear only sporadically across a field, the problem might be a genetic purity issue where only some of the individual seeds in the seed lot were intolerant of the herbicide.

"Either way, we can help farmers identify what was the root cause of their problem," Thiede says.

She adds that various seed tests are available to determine everything from germination quality and herbicide tolerance to trait purity.

"We have really good genetic tools in the industry to differentiate between hybrids and can answer those kinds of questions," Thiede says. "We can do so at both the DNA level and protein level, so we can get quite specific about what’s in a product."

The cost for seed tests varies considerably by type and laboratory, ranging from under $100 to several hundred dollars. Some labs, such as the Indiana Crop Improvement Association laboratory, detail the costs for various seed tests on their website.

You can e-mail Rhonda Brooks at


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