Seed is one of the most important inputs that farmers use all year. The difference between a good crop and a bad crop can be the quality of seed put into the ground, yet seed is not often given much thought, if at all. Just like soil testing or tissue testing, a seed test can give you some important information that can save or make you money — a seed test is the first step in determining ideal seeding rates, what, if any, seed treatment to use and more.
Harvest, or within a few weeks of it, is a great time to send off samples of seed you plan on using for next year. Testing in the fall can help you put a plan in place for 2014. There are a number of things to look for, but a few broad categories are: thousand kernel weight (TKW); germ; vigor and disease type and levels.
Thousand kernel weight is important because it is one key component to determining a seeding rate. If you have seed that is larger sized (and therefore a higher TKW), for example, that means you will generally need a higher seeding rate (in lb/ac) to achieve your desired number of seeds per foot square or acre to ultimately reach your ideal plant stand density.
A germination test determines the percent of seeds that are viable under optimum moisture and temperature conditions. This test is also important in determining seeding rate as seeds that have a higher germ can allow you to cut back on your seeding rate and still hit your target plant stand based on the thousand kernel weight formula.
Vigor testing is still testing the germination of the seed, but under stressful conditions such as cool weather which is typical at the start of seeding for much of Western Canada. This can be a more realistic germination number to use when calculating seeding rate for the first fields you hit in the spring.
Lastly, disease levels can be extremely important as these can help you to determine what seed treatment may be a good fit for your seed, or let you know if you should refrain from using that seed because the levels are too high. The threshold numbers vary based on disease, crop and year, but when getting a seed test done it is best to ask the lab for their thoughts on disease thresholds for that year.
A good crop starts with a good stand and all to often a good crop just isn’t in the cards because of the variation in seed.