Five Qs For Your Seed Retailer – for Jul. 23, 2010

As harvest wraps up, you start thinking about — and booking — seed for next year. In the past three years, farmers are starting to book their cereal seed in the fall, not just their canola, to guarantee supply. This is good practice as many cereal seed outlets are not willing to hold on to inventory so that latecomers will have something to choose from. Whether cattle, cars or seed, inventory is expensive and needs to be converted to cash to run an effective business. To make sure you get the seed you want and the quality you need, here are five questions to ask your retailer.


Whether you are buying certified seed or saving seed, get a copy of the results so that you understand the seed you are planting. Every seed lot is different. Seed test results should impact the seeding rate, seeding timing and seeding location. Planting untested seed is not a very good practice at all.

I still run into a few situations every year where a farmer traded some seed with his neighbour and did not test the seed. Then he wonders what happened and says that the variety is no good. One advantage of buying certified seed is that the seed is tested for you and you know that you are buying a high-quality product.


Germination is the process of seed emerging from dormancy. It is presented as a percentage and in a range of 0-100. As a cereal seed retailer, I test for germination of a given lot of seed several times through the winter. Testing for seed germination only once a year, in dirt off the combine, is not good enough in many cases. A seed is a living organism and therefore changes as conditions or the environment presents challenges. From my experience, two-row barley and any malt variety seem to bring the most variability in results through the winter. If the germination test was done months ago, you might want to ask for another before you buy.


Seed vigour is the amount of aggressiveness the seed has. Like germination, vigour is reported as a percentage. This test result is very important early in the spring when the air and soil temperatures are below optimal conditions. A high-germination and low-vigour result means that the seed may be slow to emerge early in the spring. You should probably plant that seed later in the spring when the soil warms to a more ideal temperature.


Seeding by bushels per acre is completely irrelevant to ensuring success. Seeding by 1,000-kernel weight is essential to achieve the stand that you want. The bigger the seed the higher the seeding rate, and the smaller the seed the lower the seeding rate. Alberta Agriculture’s “Roping the Web”

website at has a great seeding rate calculator for 1,000-kernel weight.

Every lot of seed and variety are not the same. Just because your AC Radiant winter wheat seed was 36 grams last year does not mean that it will be same next year. Triticale, to give another example, is traded at 52 pounds per bushel but in reality most varieties are much larger than this now.

Seeding triticale by the bushel can be incredibly inaccurate and leave you looking for other options next year for the wrong reasons. When placing your order, it is important to get the 1,000-kernel weight. It will influence how much seed you need to order and what your seeding rate will be.


Too many farmers fall into the yield trap by planting the variety that shows the highest yield potential even though it does not fit their environment type. One very good example of this is planting an $8-per-pound canola hybrid in a dryland situation when there are composites or open-pollinated varieties that may have higher potential return.

Ask your retailer about stand-ability, days to maturity, plant height, zone of adaptation and disease package. I always encourage farmers to ask their retailer about some of the successes or failures of the variety in the local area and some of the reasons. When I hear of great yields or poor ones I always question things like fertilizer rates, rainfall, and seeding depth.

Securing your seed supply for next year is important but like any other input or supply, you need to be informed and make an educated decision. Without making the correct seed decision, it can be very difficult to get the proper stand — which sets the whole year back. Seed is an input that defines the year and too many times farmers cut corners and end up costing themselves in the end. I find that some of the most successful farmers are those who ask the right questions to make sure they have the right seed.

ShaunHaneypublishestheHaneyFarms Quarterlyandhisblog,whichcanbefound at HaneyFarmsis locatedinPictureButte,Alta.,andisinvolved inthegrain,seedandbeefbusiness.Youcan contactShaunat1-877-738-4517or [email protected]


Seeding by bushels per acre is completely irrelevant to ensuring success. Seeding by 1,000-kernel weight is essential to achieve the stand that you want

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