When you order seed, there often are a lot of assumptions being made. You are counting on the seed to have a high germination percentage and a seed treatment that will protect you from most of the common insects and diseases. However, the seed tag only has the warm germination percentage (taken by growing seed in 77 degrees Fahrenheit for 7 days). Add that to the fact most seed reps can’t tell you all the ingredients in their seed treatment and what each of them actually does.

So . . . you need to ask more questions rather than assuming your seed meets your expectations.

What’s the Cold Germination Score?

I’m so glad people are talking about cold germination scores on seed. Brian and I grew up in the seed business and have literally been working with cold germination tests and scores since we were kids. As is true with almost any subject, it’s important to study up and learn about it to truly understand how to use it. Standard cold germination tests are used because the results are reproduceable if that same sample is run either at the same lab or another lab. A cold value within 15% of the warm germination is considered to be good by labs. A test is only relevant if it correlates to performance in the field. A cold germination test places seed at 50 degrees Fahrenheit for 7 days and then 77 degrees Fahrenheit for 4 days.

Cold tests are designed to give an estimated measure of the vigor of seed. Keep in mind this is often worse out in the field because there are a wide array of conditions the crop could face in real soils, including more temperature and moisture extremes, diseases, insects, nematodes, etc.

The saturated cold germination test for corn is interesting as it requires every seed to be put in wet soil with the germ side down to put the seed at every possible disadvantage. While a great result can give you a lot of confidence planting early in cold soils, a lower result isn’t necessarily a disaster. For that matter, a low standard cold germination test isn’t the worst thing, either. As long as the warm germ is still high, our advice would be simply to plant seed with lower cold germ test scores later in the season or at the tail end of your normal planting window when the soil is warm.

Why Are Cold Germination Scores NOT on the Seed Tag?

The simple answer is they are not required by law to be on the tag?

With Hefty Brand Seed Corn, not only do you know our warm germ will be 95% (or whatever the tag says), but our cold germ standard is 85%. If seed falls below either of those standards, we will tell you exactly what those test results are AND give you a discount if you choose to plant the seed. We don’t know of any other company doing that. In fact, we encourage you to run cold germination tests on the seed you buy and check for yourself so you know what you’re getting. We have commonly found seed from other companies that does not hit 85% on the cold germ score, and in some cases we have found scores below 50%!!

What Are the Seed Treatments and Production Practices? Brian and I have always looked for the best returns on our on-farm investments. What’s making the difference in performance from one brand of seed to the other?

Here are 2 things to consider.

1. Seed Treatment – We talk about 35 treatments in Hefty Complete Corn and 75 treatments in Hefty Complete Soybeans, while no other seed company we know of has more than 10 treatments. No one can tell you which of the many treatments will pay each year or in every part of your farmland. Experience has shown us that the more treatments you have, the more chances you have of winning. Ask your seed dealer what treatments are on their seed and what each of them does. There is a HUGE difference from one brand to the next.

2. Production Practices Growing Your Seed – Hefty and Zinesto Brand Soybeans have the two most restrictive seed grower contracts in the industry for one reason: to raise the healthiest, best-looking soybeans with the most vigor possible. Great quality production seed going into the seed plant is the first step to high yields for you. Here are some of the requirements for our seed growers: ground must have high fertility, which leads to better seed quality; all seed must be heavily treated before planting; weed and insect control must be great all season long; and a minimum of two applications of fungicide must be made. We also have many harvest and handling requirements, in addition to using some of the very best technology in the world to process the seed before it hits your farm. Our goal is to give you the best possible seed quality so you can achieve the greatest yields possible.

There are BIG differences between seed companies. Ask your suppliers about their seed treatments, seed production practices, and cold germination scores as you book your seed and get plans in place for this spring.