The value and importance of seed testing

If you are planning on saving seed for next year’s crop, seed testing should be considered, as weather conditions from the year the seed was grown, such as precipitation and heat, affect seed quality. Seed testing in the fall can provide growers with useful information that can save them both time and money – allowing them to plan for next year’s growing season with greater certainty.

Typically, seed tests evaluate variables such as germination, thousand kernel weight, vigour and seed-borne diseases. Understanding these variables is important when making seeding management decisions, as seeds with poor germination and vigour or those that contain seed diseases can negatively impact crop establishment, uniformity and health. This will ultimately affect yield.

Information collected from seed tests is also integral to achieving your desired plant population, as thousand kernel weight should be used to determine optimal seeding rates. Additionally, understanding seed germination and vigour can give you a better gauge of expected seed survival and how the seed will perform in the spring.

Germination tests evaluate the percentage of seeds likely to develop or germinate under optimal moisture, light and temperature conditions. Vigour tests are similar but provide information regarding the ability for seeds to produce normal seedings in suboptimal conditions. Cold stress tests are often used to determine this, although there are multiple vigour testing protocols used by labs. Vigour testing is important, as seed vigour usually drops before the seeds ability to germinate does. More information about calculating seeding rates can be found here.

It’s important to note that long periods of storage can affect seed quality. For example, both germination and vigour levels can decrease during winter storage. Therefore, secondary seed testing in early spring may also be necessary. More information about seed testing and seed test interpretation can be found here.

The following labs conduct seed testing: