After another fall that saw harvests go well into November and December, the next crop of soybean and corn seed is looking surprisingly good, according to a pair of seed pathologists.
Charles Block, seed pathologist with Iowa State University, and Michael Stahr, the manager of the seed laboratory at Iowa State University, said they have been pleased with samples they’ve seen come through their testing facility so far this winter.
“Based on all the rain we had in the fall, we were expecting it was going to be a bad year again,” Block said. “I was surprised the phomopsis and fusarium have been very low.”
Phomopsis and fusariam are two kinds of fungus that can be present on seed harvested to be used for the next year’s crop. In seed that is particularly affected, it can impact germination if not defended against with the right treatments.
For soybeans, Block said the 2018 harvest was “one of the worst years we’ve ever seen” when it comes to seed affected by these fungi, and expectations were for another round of the same with the snow and rain that preceded much of the 2019 harvest in the Midwest.
“The more it rains and the longer you end up delaying harvest, the more problems you have,” Block said. “It gets muddy, and the pods are getting wet and soaking up multiple times. You get these fungi growing because they’re opportunistic. But this year, everything worked out pretty well.”
Stahr said the soybean samples with more of a problem with these fungi are the edible edamame beans, as they tend to be more susceptible.
They haven’t seen too much corn seed come in to the lab just yet, Stahr said, but there has been less disease and mechanical damage this year.
“What we’ve seen in the bin so far seems to be pretty good,” Stahr said.
The samples that go through the Iowa State seed lab come from across the Midwest, Stahr said, so it’s hard to peg any locations that may be more affected by these harvest issues.
Seeds will go through a conditioning process to size them and weed out the seeds that don’t meet the standards of a seed company, theoretically limiting the amount of issues that could impact germination year to year.
It may seem obvious to say having a higher-quality seed is better overall for the upcoming season, but the impact of starting with a disease-impacted seed can be extensive.
“Last year, when we had all the phomopsis and fusarium, the average germ was pretty low,” Stahr said. “It was lower than normal, but they can use treatment to help that out. If field conditions were great, it probably would have been alright, but if any of these were kind of marginal, they probably didn’t have a lot of vigor.”
An issue that could pop up this season has to do with planting in 2019. Many acres of corn were unable to be planted, which may lead to more carryover corn seed held by the seed companies. Stahr said the carryover corn farmers may receive could be good quality, but being a year older may add some risk.
However, with a better year for seed quality in 2019, Block said the product should be in good shape for a successful 2020.
“The seed companies really do a good job putting out a good product,” Block said. “Seed quality looks pretty good and there shouldn’t be too many issues from that. The weather is the big factor, but there’s nothing we can do about it.”