By Dusty Sonnenberg, CCA, Ohio Field Leader: a project of the Ohio Soybean Council and soybean checkoff.
Seed quality in the spring of 2019 was variable due to harvest conditions in 2018. Seed germination rates for seed that was tested in 2019 averaged 85% according to the Indiana Crop Improvement Association. Coupled with the prolonged wet weather and poor planting, it became apparent that there would be carry-over seed from prevent plant acres that many farmers would be stuck with.
“We started to realize back in July that this was going to be an issue,” said Chris Jeffries, CCA, president of Seed Genetics Direct. “We knew that a lot of seed may not get returned, and would be saved over the winter for 2020.”
When Seed Genetics Direct (SGD), a family-owned seed company in Jeffersonville, Ohio began offering free carry-over bean germination testing to farmers, they weren’t sure what to expect. What they got was a mixed bag of results, the worst of which are very bad.
“So far, we have tested 22 seed samples across Indiana and Ohio through Indiana Crop Improvement,” Jeffries said. “The germ from the tags of all seed samples was 80 or above, with an average of 86. After testing, only 12 came back with at least 70% germ; only five were above 80. The lowest two were in the 30s. That’s a pretty wide spread and very worrisome.”
Although SGD isn’t releasing identities out of respect to farmers and competitors, farmers submitted seed from six different seed companies for testing. According to test results, the largest change in germination from the tag label to the recent germ test was a 67% decrease; the smallest was a decrease of 6%.
Five seed samples were the same seed variety from different farmers. Among those, seed germs came back at various percentages, with the largest gap amongst the same seed being a 22% difference.
“What this means is that it is very advisable to test any carry-over beans. Know what you are planting so you can adjust seed rates,” Jeffries said. “Don’t go by the germ your neighbor or friend has, even if it is the same variety and brand, because the elements in their barn or warehouse may be different from yours. You don’t want a seed germination in the 50s, 40s, or 30s and not know. You won’t get the yield you thought you would get, and it will be too late to do anything about it. It’s not worth the gamble.”
To help out, SGD is extending their free germ-testing program for all farmers until April 14.
Seed Genetics Direct began offering free warm germination testing because unprecedented amounts of rain prevented planting last spring and the no-return policies of most seed companies meant farmers had carry-over beans.
Add in that the starting quality of beans was lower than usual due to a rough 2018 that included high disease levels across the Corn Belt, plus the fact that high oil content of soybeans makes the vigor and germination degrade more rapidly in storage, and a big farming challenge is created. “Germ rates drop in barns or warehouses with no climate control. Beans need ideal storage conditions which can be hard to replicate without cold storage,” Jeffries said.
Ethan Conn, SGD soybean production lead, offered advice to those who are trying to meet the challenge.
“Germ rates in the 70s could still be planted, just thicker, or blended with new, higher-quality beans of the same relative maturity,” Conn said. “Lower than 60% may not be worth your time. You need to have a replant strategy.”
“Simply putting seeds in a damp paper towel to do a germ test at home will not get you the same information as sending it in to a facility with experienced technicians,” Jefferies said. “The technicians not only calculate germinate percentages, but also abnormalities. That is also good information to have when calculating what seeding rate a farmer wants to target.”
In Ohio, the Ohio Seed Improvement Association has the ability to run those tests. Farmers or their seed company dealer can send those samples to OSIA, PO Box 477, Dublin, OH 43017-0477. More details and costs are available on their website.
Those interested in the free germ testing program should send their name, contact information and 2.5 pounds of their seed with tags by April 14 to SGD at 9983 Jeffersonville-West Lancaster Road, PO Box 32, Jeffersonville, Ohio, 43128. SGD will work with Indiana Crop Improvement to test the seed germ.
“We plant a number of replicated research and strip plots across Indiana and Ohio,” Jeffries said. “Just like our customers, we dealt with a late, wet season that created massive planting delays, followed by heat and dryness at critical stages. We know what they are up against. We just want to help.”