Just because you've got enough soybean seed stored away in your toolshed, or locked in from your dealer, perhaps still at his facility, doesn't mean you can afford to be careless in handling seed this spring. Mechanical damage resulting largely from last year's super-dry harvest led to big splits problems this winter and spring. Larger than normal amounts of seed were discarded after seed was cleaned and processed. Most seed remaining that is now awaiting planting is of relatively good quality, germination wise, but only because parts of the seed lot that would have lowered germination have been removed.
The problem, noted Alan Galbraith, Indiana Crop Improvement Association, Stockwell, earlier in the year, was that seed costs weren't holding together well, especially for mid-group III and later varieties. Once ICIA realized germination tests scores were running lower than normal, they begin doing field tests to attempt to determine the cause of germination problems.
One concern they pinpointed was that just one trip through a regular, steel- flighting auger in some cases was lowering germination 20 percentage points for seed augered into the wagon compared to the same seed before it left the bin. The seed coats were simply breaking apart, creating splits and lowering germination, he notes.
Seed companies worked to clean up the seed. One result, however, is a contributing factor to tight soybean seed supplies, especially of some varieties. The other contributing factor was a large shift back to soybeans based upon price moves earlier in the winter. However, there's still time fro some to reverse course and switch back to corn, as the price relationships between corn and soybeans seems to change almost daily, sometimes swinging violently in one direction or the other.
The message for anyone planting soybean seed this spring, however, is to handle it gently all the way to the planter or drill, the ICIA specialist says. The best advice is to assume that seed is likely more fragile than normal. If one auger trip from the bin to the wagon or truck can lower germination up to 20%, there's no guarantee that a trip through an auger, even a short one, from the truck or hopper wagon into the planter might not lower germination again.
It would be a great spring to use a seed conveyor, some say. Conveyors tend to be gentler on seed since there's not the metal on metal twisting action coming in a steel flight auger. However, augers can be used successfully as long as the seed is handled as delicately as possible.
Don't be surprise dif soybean seed supply, seed quality, and lower-than-normal soybean germination counts don't become headlines as the spring 2008 planting season unfolds.