Seed Quality: How Long is Germ Viable?

While perusing some ag chat sites this week, we came across the following questions posted by a Midwest farmer. Today, Latham Product Manager Mark Grundmeier answers the questions that are top-of-mind with farmers.

Q: How long will seed corn hold its quality/germ? A lot of seed is in warehouses already, and I presumed tested and determined “good quality” before it was shipped. Is it possible that the condition of any of this seed will deteriorate before spring planting?

A: You’re right in that state and federal guidelines require seed companies to test – and tag – all seed before it ships to dealers and farmers. We must perform germination tests no sooner than December 2012 for spring 2013 delivery/planting.

The germ on seed corn is quite stable and is largely dependent on heat and moisture. Since it’s unlikely that we’ll experience excessive heat and humidity before this seed corn gets planted, it’s very unlikely that the condition of this seed corn will deteriorate before spring planting.

The trays we use to bring soybeans from the cleaner to the bagging system are so gentle they’re used to make corn flakes!

On a side note, soybean seed is much more delicate and how it’s handled can greatly impact the germination rate. Extremely dry conditions in 2012 produced seed beans that were drier than optimal when harvested. Because the seed coat is so fragile, rough handling can crack the seed coat and deteriorate the quality. To preserve seed quality, Latham Hi-Tech Seeds “babies its beans.” The majority of our seed beans are brought to our Alexander, Iowa, facility where it’s hand-tested before its stored on site.

Our equipment is specially designed to treat the soybean seed as gently as possible. The trays we use to bring soybeans from the cleaner to the bagging system are so gentle they’re identical to those that are used to make corn flakes! We also don’t bag in extremely cold conditions, which can lead to splits and cracks and further reduce the chances of having that seed germinate. But the care doesn’t stop there… dealers and farmers must also handle soybean seed with care. Dropping bags of soybeans can damage the seed coat and lead to a lower germination rate than appears on the bag tag.

Unlike corn, soybean seed can fall out of quality quite rapidly. Look for the germ rate on the seed tag. Anything above 90 percent indicates high quality soybeans; germ rates of 95% indicate high quality seed corn. If your soybeans are tagged at 80%, seed quality is most likely on a downward spiral. You’ll definitely need to increase your seeding rate to account for lower germination rates. You might even be better off to switch soybean brands.

Don’t assume that all soybean seed is tagged at the highest quality. Be sure to read the tags on all products that get delivered to your farm.