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When Mother Nature wrecks a seed crop

It was a story of two seasons. The Midwest had a monumentally wet spring that made for significant prevented soybean planting. At the end of July, Missouri, for example, fell a few raindrops shy of having the wettest May-to-July on record. Before the final tally of the average, the rain totaled 22.41 inches. The wet record was only 0.14 inches more at 22.55 in 1981. And then it turned off. The next challenge for the growing season was considerable lack of soil moisture. All told, it was a challenging year for growing soybean for seed.

That’s why it’s “buyer beware” when purchasing carry-over soybean seed from online sites, according to University of Missouri Extension soybean specialist Bill Wiebold.

“Why put your whole crop next year at risk to save a few dollars? It’s foolish economy. You get what you pay for,” he said.

Although it might seem like a cheap option, risks outweigh savings.

There are no guarantees with saved seed or seed purchased independently, Wiebold said. He recommends working with a trusted seed dealer. Seed sold legally in Missouri must possess a tag listing weed seed, inert matter and germination percentage. More importantly, most seed dealers have a full or partial replacement plan if replanting is necessary.

With about 20 percent of Missouri’s intended soybean crop unplanted, farmers face decisions on what to do with seed they purchased but were unable to plant.

Previous generations of farmers stored seed to use the next year. Wiebold does not recommend this practice.

“When farmers saved soybean seed for planting, they harvested in the fall and planted in the spring. They stored seed through late fall, winter and early spring. Weather conditions were relatively cool during most of the storage period,” he said.

Seed not used in 2015 must be stored through this summer. It was already stored through fall, winter and spring and has aged somewhat.

“If saved for planting in 2016, seed would be stored for an additional fall, winter and spring, which by itself doubles the aging time,” Wiebold said. “And it would be stored through the hot, humid summer months.”

On-farm storage also may provide less than ideal conditions with storage temperatures often above air temperatures.

Today’s practices use lower seeding rates and earlier planting. The stress of earlier planting cuts germination rates and results in lower yields and profits from low-quality seeds.

You can’t see seed quality loss by looking at seed. Standard warm germination tests evaluate viability and accelerated aging (AA) tests determine seed vigor. Wiebold recommends both tests for stored seed.

Test results in the fall or winter may vary from results at planting time. “We don’t plant in optimum conditions,” Wiebold said. Risks increase with early planting and pressure from disease and insects.

 

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