Buying Quality Seed Becomes Trickier These Days

You need to ask even more questions.

Published on: Nov 15, 2010

What is 'quality 'seed anyway? By some experts definition, it's how clean the seed is, and how pure the line. It doesn't necessarily refer to yield potential built into the hybrid in its genetic base.

Let's assume that definition is right. Then here are some things to ponder.

1. Size and grade  Am I getting what I expect to get when I open the bag? Is it uniform? Is it medium flats if that's what I ordered? It can make a difference depending upon the model, and type, of planter you're using. The slickest way to zero in on planting seed right if you have a vacuum planter is to take actual samples of each lot of seed once it's delivered to you to a person with a test stand, and have him tell you how you will need to adjust your settings to plant that particular lot successfully.

2. Dirt and broken kernels  With all the modern sorting and grading equipment available, including color sorters, there's little excuse for broken kernels in the bag. Dirt or foreign material is a no-no. Beeswings may be a little tougher, because it depends somewhat on the moisture and condition of corn at harvest. From what seedsmen tell us however, it shouldn't be a big problem for corn harvested as seed this fall.

3. What treatments are on the seed?  Here's the one that's changing rapidly. Depending upon if the company has changed their products from a year ago, the seed may even be a different color than what you've had before. This is the place to ask questions. What basic treatment is on the seed?

Just to know they've added an insecticide isn't enough. What did they add? If it's a low level, such as Poncho or Cruiser equivalent at 250, that's only going to take out certain soil pests. If it's at the 500 level, it will get more insects, but not everything. The 1250 level costs more and may be an option the company offers, but doesn't put on routinely, but it will do a much better job against wireworms and some other secondary pests.

However, most experts say that even 1250 formulations aren't good enough to get a severe corn rootworm infestation. It may work OK if your infestation level is low or moderate, but either transgenic corn or a good soil insecticide is still recommended by most entomologists if you expect severe pressure from corn rootworms.

If you are given options to choose from for corn seed treatment, ask the name of each ingredient. Then talk to a consultant or Extension adviser who knows the worst insect or disease problems in your area. Factor in cost. See if you have reasonable odds of getting payback by adding the 'Cadillac' treatments, or if you're likely OK with something less expensive?