Know Your Seed

The days are getting longer and a quick glance at the calendar confirms a somewhat startling fact. We are only 10-11 weeks away from seeding!  Now is the time to make sure you have everything in place for the spring rush.  One item that is often overlooked until it is too late is the seed test.  All the time you have spent planning, all of the money spent seeding, is all for naught if your seed fails to emerge.

In the big picture of the farm input costs, the cost of a seed test is inconsequential.  From a low of approximately $60 for a simple germination test to $170 for a complete package germination, vigor, and disease test, a seed test provides you with information that you need to make some very important decisions on your farm.

Percentage Germination

The most obvious piece of information is the percentage of seed that will germinate under a set amount of time in ideal conditions.  This will let you know if the seed you have is viable for planting, as well as provide you with one of the variables that you need when determining the proper seeding rate.


The vigor of your seed sample is measured by introducing conditions that are less favorable for germination (generally cold temperature) and measuring the effect that this has on the overall germination of the seed.  A seed sample with a high germination under ideal conditions may still have a low vigor percentage.  This may influence your decision on whether or not to use a seed lot, whether to decrease or increase seeding rate, or what soil temperature you want to have prior to seeding that seed lot.

1000 Kernel Weight

More and more labs are including a 1000 kernel weight with their complete analysis packages.  The 1000 kernel weight is the weight of 1000 kernels of the submitted seed lot.  The heavier the 1000 kernel weight is, the less seed you will have when seeding a set weight of grain.  For example, in canola 1000 kernel weights often vary between 3-6 grams per 1000 seeds.  The industry standard recommendation in the past has been to seed your canola at 5lbs per acre. If you had two lots of seed, one with a 1000 kernel weight of 3.2 g and one with 6.4 g per 1000 seeds, and you seeded them both at 5 lbs per acre you would be placing twice as many seeds in the ground with the 3.2g lot as you would with the 6.4g lot.  If you set your seeding rate directly by 1000 kernel weight you should be seeding the 3.2g seed at ½ the rate of the 6.4g seed.  There is debate about whether some factor should be allowed for a higher survivability of larger seed vs smaller seed. For how to calculate seeding rate using 1000 kernel weight you can visit$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/agdex81.



Regardless of the crop you are planning on seeding it is very important to know what levels of disease are found in the seed.  It is important to discuss disease levels either with the lab you submitted the sample to or with your local Cavalier Agrow Business Agronomist. Some diseases are very common and are not problematic below certain levels;  in some cases you may need to change the seed treatment that you apply; and in other cases it may be best to find a new seed lot if possible.  Often disease levels will not affect germination but may have drastic effects on early vigor of seedlings.


In conclusion a small investment will provide you with essential information for attaining your yield goals!  Some things to keep in mind is that it is important to make sure you take as representative of a sample as possible to ensure reliable test results and to send your sample away as early as possible.  There is no problem shipping samples away in the fall or early winter.  As we get closer to spring the seed labs get busier and it may affect how quickly you get your results.  The closer to spring that you receive your results the more difficult it will be to find different seed treatments or a new seed lot.


Greg Frey – BSA