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Don’t compromise on seed quality

2009 was a tough growing season and an even tougher harvest, and it’s created a lot of concern about soybean seed quality for 2010.

You’ll want to be sure to work with a company that doesn’t compromise on quality just to increase the quantity of seed it has available.

Last fall, we worked with our seed producers closely to manage the harvest. Most held off combining seed fields until the beans had dried back down to normal levels.

After getting the seed in the bin, we put all lots through a hypochlorite soak test to determine seed quality. The soak test reveals seed coat damage. Then, we sent in samples for a warm and cold germination and accelerated aging tests. The seed must meet minimum requirements to pass.

The accelerated aging test is really a vigor test. Two years ago I sent in a sample of carry-over soybean seed for a test. The warm germ came back at 90%; the cold germ was 84% — about the minimum level to qualify for seed. But the accelerated aging test came back under 20%.

In a test plot, I compared the carry-over seed to new seed of the same variety. The new seed had 94% germination and higher cold and accelerated aging scores than the carry-over seed. The new seed yielded 9 bushels per acre more than the carry-over seed.

Had the carry-over seed been planted in a field, I doubt if the crop would have had the vigor to produce a high yield.

Even if there is a shortage of some of the varieties that you want to plant, don’t succumb to the temptation to buy seed that is low in quality — even if it’s priced lower. You would need higher planting populations and higher seed treatment costs to give you the same stand as high-quality seed, and even then you have a chance of low vigor.

Seed quality is never the place to cut corners. This spring, make a point of checking your seed tags, and don’t accept anything that is less than standard.

Spelhaug is an agronomist with Peterson Farms Seed, Harwood, N.D. Contact him at 701-282-7476 or visit

This article published in the February, 2010 edition of DAKOTA FARMER.

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