Planting good quality seed in the spring is just one factor in helping you to achieve high yield. Ensuring that you have seed with a high germination percentage and low disease levels can help the crop overcome early-on barriers such as disease and insect pressures, seeding errors and weather conditions. It is therefore important to consider sending representative samples away of your bin-run seed to an accredited seed lab to check for germination, vigour and disease levels. Many of these labs are also able to check for any special seed tests such as herbicide tolerance.
Germination testing is used to provide information on the seed’s ability to develop into a healthy seedling under almost ideal conditions. Germination testing is done for seven days at 20oC and under sufficient moisture conditions. Vigour testing on the other hand is a measure of the seed’s ability to emerge and develop under stressful conditions such as cold and/or wet soils, salinity, deep seeding, etc.
Both of these tests are important to help gauge how the seed will respond early on in the soil. High germination and vigour levels indicate that the seed will be able to provide a sufficient plant population under varied field conditions. Planting high quality seed also ensures that the plant will be able to overcome difficulties during a critical time. A significant difference between the germination and vigour results can indicate that the seed may not be able to reach its full potential due to factors such as herbicide or mechanical damage.
The Seeds Act requires that all labs standardize germination testing to meet certain requirements. However, seed vigour testing is not standardized across the industry and each lab may have a different way of completing the test. To help compensate for these differences, make sure to have the seed lot tested for all tests at the same lab. And don’t forget to ask for a copy of the seed test results if you are purchasing any new certified seed for next year.
For a list of accredited labs in Canada and publications on seed-borne diseases, visit www.agriculture.gov.sk.ca. For more information, contact me at 306-848-2856 or the Agriculture Knowledge Center at 1-866-457-2377. Shannon Friesen, PAg Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture