Don't Compound Disaster by Hanging on to old Corn Seed

How seed is stored during summer key to viability.

Published on: Jun 2, 2011

If you stop planting before you intended to due to the wet spring, and you have seed left, perhaps your seedsman will take whatever seed you have left back. If he doesn't want to do that, and rumor is some companies are electing not to take it back, then what do you do with it?

The worst possible answer is to store it in your toolshed over the summer, whether it's five bags or a full plastic box, amounting to 50 units. The problem is that to maintain viability of the seed for next season, you need to keep it cool. You can't do that in a toolshed which gets very warm inside the shed on hot days.

"It's the hot days, then the variation in temperature back to cool days that really affects the germination of seed," says Bill Cobbler, in charge of sales for Stewart Seeds, Greensburg. "Viability really suffers when corn is stored where the temperature is quite variable during the time that it is in storage.

"The good thing is that most seed companies have refrigerated warehouses where they can store corn over time, and maintain the temperature at 50 degrees or slightly above. Then the germination should not be affected."

Even if a customer only has three or four bags of seed corn left over, Cobbler is adamant they should not keep it. Instead, he would rather take it back and see that it is stored properly.

The truth is that the industry as a whole generally carries some seed corn over from year to year. Each company decides how much they want to hold back in refrigerated storage. It's protection against a bad seed producing year, Cobbler says.

Each company must test germination and retag seed before the next growing season, Cobbler adds. So even if the seed you get is already a year old, there should be no concern as long as the germination is still good on the lot of seed. The seed tag should relate the date of the most recent testing.

"If a customer insists on keeping some seed at home and storing it on his own, then I insist on pulling a sample and having germination checked in the spring," Cobbler continues.

Keeping seed over on your own may also void the warranty a company affords you concerning free or reduced price replant seed should your field not emerge properly in the area where the seed you kept and stored was planted.