Seed test time

By Country News

Testing cereal and pulse seed for germination and vigour could be one of the best investments growers can make in the lead-up to the 2019 winter crop sowing.

The Grains Research and Development Corporation said seed quality played a critical role in maximising emergence and early crop growth, and unsupported assumptions about the quality of retained seed could prove a costly mistake if crop establishment was poor.

NSW Department of Primary Industries senior plant pathologist Steven Simpfendorfer encouraged growers to undertake certified germination and vigour testing at least two months before sowing so that an alternative seed source could be arranged if required.

He said testing was especially important if growers planned to use seed retained from the 2017 harvest or from crops impacted by drought, frost or late October rain in 2018.

‘‘Vigour and germination tests provide an indication of the proportion of seeds that will produce normal seedlings and this helps determine seeding rates,’’ he said.

‘‘As a result of poor seasonal conditions in 2018, particular attention should be given to determining vigour of retained seed for sowing in 2019.

‘‘The potential shortage of planting seed in 2019 means many growers may be in the situation of sowing seed retained from harvest in 2017 and storage conditions during this extended period are likely to have impacted on the germination and vigour of retained seed.’’

Dr Simpfendorfer said vigour would be even more important if growers planned to increase sowing depth to capture an earlier sowing opportunity through moisture seeking.

While sowing rates can be increased to compensate for small reductions in seed germination, Dr Simpfendorfer said nothing could be done to alleviate the impact of poor seed vigour.

‘‘After a below-average to poor winter crop season in 2018, recovery in 2019 starts with growers planting the best available seed possible,’’ he said.

‘‘Seed supply will be tighter than usual in 2019, so just because a seed source — such as from 2017 harvest — is all a grower has on hand, does not mean it will be the best choice to sow in 2019.’’

In addition to germination and vigour, Dr Simpfendorfer said retained seed should also be tested for purity/weed seeds and disease pathogens.