Southern Spotlight: The importance of seed selection

Amanda Fairley

Amanda Fairley

This is the second article for an extension of our RD Platform entitled ”RD Southern Spotlight”. The first article will appear in our October monthly newsletter, which went out yesterday. The first article was framed around the importance of investments made of nutrients and soil amendments for the wheat crop. This article picks back up on why we should capitalize on the recent soil amendments and fertilizer investments by planting high quality seed to ensure the harvest of a successful crop. Careful seed selection, treatment, and planting will add value to your acres by ensuring that your fields get off to a quick, healthy, and effective start.

Seed Selection: The Kansas Crop Improvement Association issues a blue tag to each bag of high-quality seed. Seed certified with the blue tag has been tested by a registered lab for germination quality and purity, ensuring that it is free of weed seeds and seeds from other crops.

Saved seed does not offer the same pureness or quality germination as certified seed. The probability of contamination of saved seed is high as saved seed (whether bin run or custom cleaned) doesn’t undergo the same quality control measures that certified seed does. Saved seed is often contaminated with seed from volunteer wheat and can harbor diseases that spread to healthy plants after germination. This threatens yield potential, plant vigor, and the disease package of wheat and can negatively affect the maturity date of your crop.

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Seed Treatments: Seeds and seedlings are under constant pressure from insects, disease, and fungus. Seed treatments can help see seeds and seedlings through these pressures, until they are better established and able to put up some resistance. Seed treatments are insurance and can give your seed the best possible start during and after germination.

A number of factors need to be considered as you decide whether or not to opt for a seed treatment. Crop value, planting date, tilling practices, disease/insect pressure, soil conditions, and cost should all be taken into account as you make your decision, as should seed quality and field conditions during planting.

As insects and disease can negatively affect your wheat seedlings, I do recommend getting early season protection via seed treatments. An insecticide treatment will provide early season protection against aphids, hessian flies, wireworm, and white grubs. A fungicide treatment will protect your seeds and seedlings from numerous diseases including seed rot, seedling blight, loose smut, root rot, and crown and foot rot. Seed and head diseases do, unfortunately, poise a concern for farmers in North Central Kansas—a fungicide seed treatment will help protect against these diseases and ensure that your plants get a healthy and unhindered start to their season.
By alleviating insect and disease pressure, seed treatments encourage quick seedling emergence and improve stand establishments.

Seeding Rate: Using the correct seeding rate is of the utmost importance. The potential value in high quality seed and high quality soil can be thwarted by an incorrect seeding rate. Placing the correct amount of seed in the ground sets the stage for a successful stand and yield.

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The chart above shows recommended seeding rates for different regions in Kansas. Take note, however, that these rates address typical conditions and that atypical conditions will require an adjustment in the rate:

  • Planting early for grazing purposes: adjust seeding rate to 90-120 lbs/acre
  • Planting later than expected: increase seeding rate by 50%
  • No-till planting into heavy residue: increase seeding rate by 15 lbs/acre
  • Planting immediately after grain sorghum: adjust rate to 90-120 lbs/acre (for central KS)
  • Planting in unfavorable seedbed conditions: increase seeding rate by 10-20% per acre

Planting wheat is an exciting but anxious time as you anticipate the success of your recent investments. Selecting high-quality seed, treating it for increased resistance to insect and disease pressures, and planting it at the correct rate will give your crop the best chance to meet its potential and provide a hearty yield at harvest.