The Benefits of Certified Seed

Why plant Certified Seed? Why not use grain in the bin? This is a common question raised by all farmers at one time or another. Many take a backward approach of “what can I get by with?” rather than “what is best for top production?” Planting certified seed is a key ingredient to top yields. There are five basic keys to seed certification which separate Certified seed from grain in the bin: the seedsman, seed source, field inspection, seed cleaning, and seed testing. All factors in each of these key areas are documented to insure high quality Certified seed.

All seed production starts with the seed producer. In agriculture no two years are the same. Every year has it’s own challenges. It is critical to manage these for quality seed production. A seasoned seedsman understands how environment influences seed quality and will manage accordingly. It is important to understand that seed is a living organism, an example of one of the small miracles in this world. If it weren’t alive it wouldn’t grow. This makes all harvesting, handling, storage, and conditioning very important. Extra care is taken in all of these areas for seed production by certified seedsmen.

Genetically pure seed is an important step in seed production. All certified seed is planted from Foundation seed which is screened for varietal off-types. The seed is rogued using detailed variety descriptions set by the plant breeder as standards. This insures that your seed has all the disease resistances that it was originally intended to have.

Field inspection is the heart of seed certification, but why is it so important? The importance of field inspection is to locate seed related problems in the field and isolate them before they are mixed in the entire seed lot. Each crop has it’s own contaminates that are detrimental to seed quality. Listed are some of the most common concerns: black nightshade in soybeans and dry beans, quackgrass in oats, common blight and anthracnose in dry beans. These inspections are done by experienced trained field inspectors. They provide a third-party unbiased evaluation of the varietal off-types and diseases.

Professionally cleaned Certified seed provides many benefits. White mold is becoming a common concern in Michigan. White mold sclerotia can be spread from field to field if not properly cleaned from the grain. We all know how devastating this can be. Weed seeds are also common in grain but strictly regulated in Certified seed. All Certified seed is thoroughly conditioned to insure the absence of contaminates commonly found in grain. As an example, in South Dakota samples of screenings from seed being cleaned for seed were analyzed for their weed content. The average number of weeds found in one pound of screenings follow: quackgrass – 1017, Canada thistle – 112, lambsquarters – 11,612, wild buckwheat – 10,314. If this seed were not properly cleaned, these weed seeds, plus others, would be planted right along with the rest of your crop. The choice is yours.

All Certified seed is also tested in the lab for seedling vigor. Certified seed is tested to see how well it will germinate and also how well it will perform under adverse conditions. Diseases and environmental factors contribute to decreased seed vigor. White mold can kill infected plants prematurely causing uneven ripening and seed development. Because the plants have to be harvested with the rest, they will be exposed to the “weather” for a longer period of time depending on the severity and stage of infection.

The bottom line to planting Certified seed is increased yield. All the factors mentioned previously contribute to this yield advantage. Many studies have shown increased yields from planting professionally grown seed. The most extensive study was done in North Carolina by James Dunphy and Janet Fergeson. The study compared 204 side by side replicated samples of bin run grain to professional seed. It showed a range of results from farmer saved seed doing better, to being equal, to professional seed doing better. But, overall, professional grown seed yielded 1.9 bu/A higher than bin run seed. This can be attributed to higher germination, absence of variety mixtures, absence of seed borne diseases, and absence of weed seed contaminates.