Pulse School: Seed quality, and the potential for deterioration through storage

From a too-early pre-harvest application to environmental stresses through the growing season, there are many factors that can impact the quality of harvested pulse seed. To find out more about the quality of the crop, it’s important to test the seed as soon as possible, to find out what’s going on, and whether or not it will seed quality to continue to deteriorate, even in storage.

“Good seed quality for us, from a grade standard perspective is 85 per cent (germination) on peas, for a certified number one, but anything over and above that is a bonus,” says Sarah Foster, president and senior seed analyst at 20/20 Seed Labs, in this episode of the Pulse School.

Foster says a vigour test will tell more about the quality and strength of the seed, and that further testing can be done if there’s an indication of disease problems through the germination test. This year, it seems, is particularly problematic.

“The longer the harvest goes, and the more the environment impacts the quality of the crop, the more likely we’re going to see disease and decay and storage issues.”

If a producer decides the recommended disease investigation is the next step, that department can get a better idea of the level of infection, and what seed treatments would be the best bet for planting.

Another problem that may shop up in a germination test is mechanical and physical damage.

“Peas are notorious for mechanical damage, and it’s easy to see before you’ve done the germination test, if there is any mechanical damage,” says Foster. “Now, the problem with mechanical damage is, oftentimes, if they haven’t split in half, and you do see these cracks, the embryo that’s held between the cotyledons is actually already detached, or partially detached from the seedling – so you’re taking away the food source.”

Foster says the key is to look for uniformity in germination.

Next, is chemical damage.

“We have seen a number of tests this year that have got chemical damage,” says Foster, adding seed labs tend to see it in years with environmental challenges. Besides impacting germination, chemical damage can also continue to impact the seed through storage, so Foster recommends doing repeat germination tests until seeding.

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