If you no-till corn and aren't asking the seed company for extended cold germination test results, you're flat out missing the boat.
That's the view of Wayne Pedersen, University of Illinois plant pathologist.
Bad things happen to germination percentages if you no-till a corn hybrid early that hasn't measured up in such a test, the scientist warns.
The normal cold germination test is seven days at 50 degrees. An extended test usually is 14 days at 50 degrees followed by 68 degrees or 70 degrees for seven days, Pedersen explains.
"If I'm buying seed corn, and I'm going to plant by about the 10th of April, I want the best- quality seed I can get," declares the plant pathologist. "And that extended cold germination test is going to give it to me."
If you need convincing, consider this research Pedersen and graduate student Keith Ames have been conducting. They started testing two hybrids, one from Pioneer and one from FS, which were being marketed as "very good" for no-till and early planting in cold soils.
"They were," Pedersen says. "Both were excellent."
Then they picked two other hybrids, both commercial numbers. But the company didn't specify whether they were highly rated for no-till and early planting.
"They flunked the extended cold germination test," he says. "They ended up with between 50 and 70% germination on the extended cold germination tests.
"You don't have to have 95% germination on that test to be adequate. To me, it should be above 85%, and if it's not, I'd be scared about planting that seed in early April, especially in no-till."
Pedersen believes that virtually every major seed company is performing an extended cold test to find out the quality of their seed. Few, if any, publish that information, he says, because the industry doesn't have a standard test to ensure uniformity.
However, Pedersen says, in all of those tests, seed companies are determining quality on two scores: the genetic differences in germination ability and the quality of their seed-handling process. Both can impact germination percentages.
"I don't think I'm going to get any seed companies mad at me, but if they are not doing an extended cold germination test, maybe they will start offering it if the grower asks for it," Pedersen says.
"My understanding is that if a farmer asked for the extended cold germination test, they would try very hard to accommodate that request."
Obviously, this requires more lab and cold storage space for seed companies. But even if they had to make a small charge for it, Pedersen thinks it would be well worth it. A poor stand can make a significant difference on yield with corn - and a lower yield steals money from your bottom line.