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Ask seed suppliers some bold questions

Chances are seedsmen you don’t do business with have already knocked on your door. How do you know which ones might be marketing quality products?

Ask tough, bold questions, Dave Nanda says. Nanda, a crops consultant and director of genetics and technology for Seed Consultants Inc. answers these tough questions.

IPF: How does a farmer not familiar with a company find out about its seed quality?

NANDA: Ask the seedsman about the seed quality of the hybrid he or she is selling. Where was it grown? Does the company produce its own seed? How old is the seed? Does the company have good storage for carryover seed? Does it do grow-outs of its seed? Does it count percentage of self-pollinated or inbred plants?

Many seed salesmen can’t answer these questions. But a good salesman will try to find out. If he does and has a competitive hybrid with data, buy some seed.

IPF: What makes up seed quality? Is it all germination tests? How much of this must a company report?

NANDA: Good companies do seedling vigor tests and report those in their seed catalog. All companies are required by law to report germination test data on every seed tag. Germination must be 95% or more. If it’s less, the seed company should inform you.

IPF: Is quality information proprietary, or can anyone get it?

NANDA: Some information is proprietary. Most companies in Indiana and Ohio send seed samples to Indiana Crop Improvement Association near Lafayette or to Professional Seed Research in Illinois. You may be able to get the information you want, but they would have to get their client’s permission.

IPF: How old can (corn) seed be and still be good?

NANDA: I have seen 5- to 7–year-old seed kept under good storage conditions keep its germination. I don’t like to see more than 3-year-old seed because some parent lines can start to lose vigor. However, we have kept good germination of seed in controlled temperature and humidity in research packages for more than 10 years. I prefer all inbred lines be grown after five years to maintain quality of germplasm.

IPF: How do you know if you’re getting old seed?

NANDA: You don’t, and seed companies aren’t required to tell. However, if you insist on getting an answer before buying, most reputable companies will try to give you a satisfactory answer. If not, they won’t be in business very long.

IPF: Should growers be concerned about age of seed?

NANDA: I don’t think age of seed should be a major concern as long as you have 95% germination. I’d worry more about small, inbred plants that become “weeds” in a field of hybrid plants. In some fields last year, I counted more than 10% that looked like self-pollinated plants that wouldn’t even produce nubbins. They take up nutrition and water just like weeds. In order to ramp up production to meet demand, companies may get sloppy in detassseling and production practices. That’s a more valid concern than age of seed.

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Tough competitor: Farmers can dish up tough questions. With more than 40 years in the seed business, Dave Nanda is up to the challenge.

This article published in the November, 2010 edition of INDIANA PRAIRIE FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2010.