When growing a crop there are many factors that come into play during the growing season. Moisture, weed pressure, fertilizer source and fertilizer rates will greatly affect the overall yield and quality of the crop. We cannot do anything about “Mother Nature.” So, we must make the best choices we can during the growing season to manage the hardships we can control.
First and foremost, we need to make sure we have the best seed possible. How do we make sure that this is attained before we start? Sending your seed to a seed lab is the first step. There are many seed labs across western Canada that will do this for you for minimal expense. Getting a complete seed test done will give you not only seed germination and vigor but will also point out specific fungi levels that are present on the seed.
Germination is defined as “the development of a plant from a seed or spore after a period of dormancy”. The test is relatively straight forward. It is completed by dampening 200 random and placing them under a specific temperature. Over time, you will begin to see how your seeds will perform in the test. The seeds are split into different categories to determine what has been seen and documented.
- Seedlings germinate normally, showing they can produce useful mature plants under favorable field conditions.
- Seedlings that show some form of growth, but do not have enough plant structures to maintain a healthy plant.
- Fresh Seeds. Seeds that fail to germinate but have imbibed water. They appear firm, fresh and capable of germination, but remain dormant.
- Dormant Seeds. Viable seeds (other than hard seeds) that fail to germinate under the test conditions.
- HardSeeds with coats that are impermeable to water, so they stay hard throughout the test period.
- Dead Seeds that cannot produce any part of a seedling.
Vigor is simply the strength and robustness of the healthy seeds ability to grow from emergence to a seedling. A common way to measure vigor is called a Cold Stress Test. Cold stress tests gauge the seedlings’ capability to endure the low temperature stress (5°C to 7°C) seen in early spring planting.
Cold stress tests are reported in two separate categories, emergence, and vigor.
- Emergence is the ratio of seedlings that formed normally and quickly under cold conditions.
- Vigor is the ratio of seedlings that have reached a predetermined minimum criterion to be considered high vigor.
The target for a high vigor seed is 80% emergence and 60% vigor. Expected field performance falls between the vigor and emergence principles under a variety of field situations and is significantly better when field conditions are more favorable.
Another test that tends to be overlooked quite a bit is the Fungal Screen. This a quick growth breakdown of different pathogens and fungi on a sterilized petri dish that are present within and on the surface of the seed. Under the right circumstances seeds can develop and become an issue in the field if not fixed. This test is almost like a cheat sheet. We can figure out firsthand which type of seed treatment options will be the best for our specific crop and diseases that are present. Some labs may also retest the same seed using the seed treatment best used to control that specific disease. Fungi and Pathogens that are screened are as follows.
- Cochlioblous sativus (Seedling blight, foot and root rot or spot blotch)-
- Fusarium graminearum (Head blight) –
- Fusarium spp. (Seedling blight, root and crown rot, and head blight) –
- Pyrenophora spp. (leaf stripe, net blotch and tan spot)
- Septoria spp.Septoria spp. (Leaf blotch)
- Alternaria spp. (weak pathogen)
- Cladosprium spp. (weak pathogen)
- Epicoccum spp. (weak pathogen)
These are just quick breakdowns of what seed labs can offer to you as a grower. Making sure you have got strong seed is extremely important if you are looking to grow the best crop you can. You only get one chance in the spring to get it right; so why not start with great seed! Contact your local SynergyAG rep to get your seed tested!