“Genetics account for 100% of potential yield,” he says. “Seed production can impact it, for sure, so farmers have to pay attention to that, as well. But at the end of the day, it is good for growers to understand there are similar (genetic) products out there from different companies.”
“It is not like creating a bolt and a nut that will perform the same way anywhere you put it,” says Andy LaVigne, American Seed Trade Association chief executive officer. “That is why seed companies spend such a large amount of time testing genetics in an area to help farmers make informed decisions.”
“There is a lot less competition on that level, compared with the seed brands that are sold at the farm gate,” he says.
In the seed industry, variety and brand definitions differ. A variety’s originator assigns the variety a name, but different brand names are used by the firm and by the companies to which it may license the variety. In many cases, both brand and variety name appear on the seed tag. In many company marketing efforts, though, only the brand name is discussed.
FBN used the seed tag information to build a grid that profiled 77 companies selling corn seed and 58 firms selling soybean seed. For a seed company to be included in the grid, FBN needed to analyze at least five of its corn or soybean products.
Despite industry consolidation, more than 100 seed companies still exist. Along with buying genetics, these smaller companies still develop and improve varieties with proprietary genetics that fit their regions, says LaVigne. Universities still develop public varieties that often feature specific disease-resistance characteristics, he says. Meanwhile, more seed companies have come online in the past three to five years using techniques like gene editing to develop and license varieties, he says.
“There are farmers who just want the lowest price possible,” he says. “Others want the largest amount of value they can get for the dollars they spend. That is the type of customer who is attracted to us. We offer farmers a free replant program and exclusive seed treatments on all our seed. There are also financing programs that accompany seed purchases, and also our Practical Farm Research (an agronomic testing program offered to customers).”
Trueness to variety indicates that the seeds in a bag are of the variety stated on the label. Trueness is usually determined by records of seed sources and by field inspections of the plants that produce the seed. Field inspections are conducted by certification agencies or representatives of commercial seed companies.
The following definitions will help in understanding seed germination and seedling emergence:
Critical moisture levels vary among crop seed. Most starchy seeds (monocots) will begin germination when they have a moisture content of approximately 30 percent. Most oily seeds (dicots), however, will not begin germination until they have a moisture content of at least 50 percent.
Seed Germination Tests
In the case of proteins, seeds may not have the ideal composition in terms of human nutritional needs. Proteins are made up of long chains of amino acids. Some seeds do not have the optimum quantities of amino acids for human nutrition. For example, corn proteins are generally low in the amino acid lysine but relatively high in the amino acid methionine. In contrast, soybean proteins are relatively high in lysine but somewhat low in methionine. When corn and soybean seeds are used together, a nutritionally satisfactory balance can be obtained.
If two lots of seed have the same germination percentage but one is of high vigor and the other is of low vigor, a difference in the germination speed, seedling growth, Or emergence can be seen. For example, gemination test results on two peanut seed lots were 99 percent (lot A) and 98 percent (lot B). In the field, seed lot A had a 98 percent emergence, whereas seed lot B had an emergence of only 60 percent. Underfavorable germination conditions, the two lots have only a small difference in speed of germination (Figure 7). Under unfavorable (cool) conditions, the two lots have a great difference in the speed of germination, a result of their difference in seed vigor (Figure 8).
The dispersal mechanisms of seeds range from the simple dropping of the seed from the parent plant onto the ground to the more exotic ways such as scattering by wind or “shooting” from the plant. The tumbleweed scatters its seeds in the wind as it rolls along the ground. Light, puffy seeds like those of the thistle and dandelion and winged seeds like those of the maple and pine can ride the wind for great distances. Some seeds, such as the cocklebur, hitch rides on passing animals. Among the most exotic dispersal mechanisms are the “shooting” seeds of plants such as mistletoe or touch-me-not that are “spring loaded” and flung from the parent plant into the air.
In North Carolina, the noxious weed seed list includes prohibited and restricted noxious weeds. Seed containing any seed or tubers of prohibited noxious weed seed cannot legally be sold in the state. Restricted noxious weed seeds are permitted in crop seed, but the number of weed seed permitted per pound of crop seed is limited. Noxious weed seed and their limitations in crop seed are listed in Table 3. High-quality seed contains no noxious weed seed.
At a 35k/acre population rate, that’s a cost difference of $29.75/acre.
How much is seed relabeling costing you?
As it turns out, it can be quite a bit. Members of Farmers Business Network are contributing their seed bag tags, seed price invoices, and yield data to an FBN Analytics project that helps farmers not be in the dark on seed relabeling.
Get involved with The Seed Relabeling Study – What to Expect
The impact on your bottom line can be very costly.
You might receive a level of service or convenience from one brand that you feel warrants a higher price. But it’s critical you know your full options so you can make the best agronomic and financial decisions when you buy seed.
A common practice in the seed industry is to sell the exact same variety of seed under different brand names. Labeling laws require seed companies to disclose the variety identity on the seed bag tag itself — which is different from the marketed brand name farmers are familiar with. However, it is extremely difficult for farmers to match which seeds are the same as others – a problem we call seed relabeling.
Farmers Business Network is an independent network of thousands of farmers, growing profits by sharing information and increasing buying power.