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Reasons to test your seed

Some farmers feel that saving back seed will help them save money. However, the risks associated with saved seed can result in higher production costs, or lower crop yields.

Several issues can arise from saved seed. Unlike certified seed, varietal and physical purity cannot be guaranteed. When seed is not grown, cleaned, and tested under the standards set forth for certified seed, mistakes can happen, and problems can arise.

Seed that is not cleaned by an approved conditioner can contain weeds or other varieties. Approved conditioners are seed cleaning operations that are required by Kansas Crop Improvement to meet standards of equipment cleanliness. By not choosing an approved conditioner, growers are subjecting their seed to weed or other crop contamination, which may result in reduced yields or rejected lots.

Seed can be damaged during storage from transportation and moisture.

Improper handling of seed can cause damage to the germ which will prevent sprouting once planted. If seed is not properly dried before storage, moisture can accumulate and cause fungus to grow on the seed, or cause the wheat to heat up and damage the kernels.

Although storage is a big factor in seed viability, seed from plants that have frozen in the field before harvest can also be an issue. Although frozen wheat may seem to recover and continue to head, the kernels produced might not yield well, if at all, in the future.

All these issues can cause production costs to increase in areas such as unusable seed, increased seeding, and pesticide and herbicide application.

After harvest, a poor quality crop may reduce the value of seed at the elevator.

All certified seed, however, carries the assurance of thorough testing.

With certification, seed from every field is tested for noxious weeds, varietal uniformity, and germination; all important factors when planting a seed crop. First, fields are inspected before harvest for potential problems, and then the seed is tested after cleaning for quality. Saved seed cannot provide the same confidence as certified seed. Having saved seed tested before planting can give an important indication of what potential a crop will have once it has been planted.

Professional laboratories, like the one at Kansas Crop Improvement Association, can help growers ensure their seed has the potential to provide a successful crop. Although some basic tests can be performed at home, laboratory testing is preferred to home tests, as the technicians are properly trained to identify key issues or problems.

The KCIA laboratory can provide a broad range of tests like germination, test weight, protein, and seeds per pound to name a few. The tests required for seed certification are germination, purity, and a noxious weed examination. However, most growers testing saved seed will only request a germination test to determine viability.

As a producer the best choice is to purchase certified seed. However, if you do choose to plant saved seed, be sure to have it tested before planting to verify germination and quality. Growers are encouraged to submit samples of seed soon after harvest to determine if the seed is worth saving. The same seed should be tested again before planting to ensure no damage has occurred during storage and transportation. A $17 germination test is a small price to pay compared to the problems that could arise down the line from planting poor quality seed.

If you have any questions about laboratory testing or certified seed, please contact Kansas Crop Improvement Association at 785-532-6118, kscrop@kansas.net or visit www.kscrop.org.

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