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Farmers Reminded About the Importance Of Seed Quality And Seed Testing

The drought and heat stress over the 2021 growing season has resulted in shriveled and small grain that was harvest this fall. The stresses have led to concerns over seed quality for the 2022 growing season. Producers who plan on using farm saved seed should send in samples and test their grain to determine how it will perform for the upcoming growing season. Due to the widespread nature of the drought, certified seed availability may be more limited. Testing as early as possible will give producers more time to find a quality seed source.

Producers should be testing for germination, vigour, thousand kernel weight (TKW) and test for seed borne diseases. Germination tests of a particular seed lot evaluates the percentage of seeds that will grow under ideal environmental conditions. Vigour will indicate how well the seed will perform under stressful growing conditions. Together, germination and vigour will provide producers a good indication how well the seed will perform. When looking at seed test results, a seed lot is considered to have high germination levels when the germination percentage is above 90%. The smaller the gap between percent germination and percent vigour, the more sound the seed. TKW determines the seed size, which is vital when calculating seeding rates to target the optimum plant populations. Finally, testing to assess levels of seed borne diseases helps to limit the introduction of pathogens into a field and prevent early establishment of disease.

If seed test results come back with poor quality seed, it is best practice to source a better quality seed, if possible. Due to the drought, producers should have a plan B for seed variety choice, as popular varieties sell out quickly. If producers choose to use the seed they currently have that has lower germination, seeding rates will need to be increased to reach the target plants per square foot for the given crop. Seed treatments should also be considered under circumstances with high disease percentage or low germination. Seed treatments help with the survivability of the seed by protecting the seed from pathogens of concern.

If producers are looking for a laboratory to send their seed for testing, they should make sure their seed is sent to an accredited seed lab. A full list of accredited seed labs within the province can be found on the Canadian Seed Institute website: Accredited Labs | Canadian Seed Institute - Centre for Systems Integration (csi-ics.com).

For more information on seed quality and seed testing, please reach out to your local Crops Extension Specialist or call the Agriculture Knowledge Centre at 1-866-457-2377.

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