Germination testing for small grain seed that has been saved from previous growing seasons should be a regular step in spring planting preparation, says SDSU Extension Plant Pathology Field Specialist Bob Fanning, during a recent iGrow Radio Network interview.
This year is a crucial year when a germination test should be done because of all the potential problems that can impact poor germination," Fanning said. "When we look at all different disease problems and production problems we had last year including; scab, black point, glume blotch, ergot and other various virus diseases along with root and crown rot – there were an awful lot of things that can result in poor germination and poor seedling vigor."

Fanning explains that a germination test shows growers what percentage of a seed unit is capable of producing normal seedlings under ordinarily favorable conditions. Germination rate is standard when growers purchase new bags of seed, however, if small grain producers save seed from the previous harvest to plant back the following season the only way they can know the germination rate is by having the seed tested.

"The germination test will tell them how well that lot of seed will perform for them," he said.

The SDSU Seed Testing Laboratory is a great resource for growers needing a germination test. Growers can pick up envelopes and information at their local Extension office or Regional Extension Center. Growers can expect results in about two weeks.

Fanning says if a unit of seed has a germination rate of 85 percent or greater, growers can expect OK yields. The ideal germination rate is 90 to 95 percent. When a unit of seed has lower germination rates, Fanning says growers may want to either purchase new seed or adjust their planting rate – decisions he says cannot be made unless growers know the germination rate.

"Knowing what that germination percentage is allows them to adjust their planting rate to get the stand they desire," he said.

All purchased seed must be tested for germination.

"Germination test is a requirement of selling certified seed," he said.