Monty Malone

Monty Malone, BASF soybean variety development lead.

MINNEAPOLIS – The 2018 growing season was filled with challenges, and there’s concern those challenges have impacted the quality of 2019’s soybean seed.

“The weather at late seed fill for almost the entire Soybean Belt was very conducive for disease development,” said Monty Malone, BASF soybean variety development lead, during a recent phone interview. “That disease development had a significant impact on all of the seed quality that we will have with our planting seeds for 2019.”

Wet weather during the seed fill stages and the mature seed stages of the 2018 is most concerning. Rain or high humidity, along with the warm temperatures created the perfect environment for fungal disease growth.

“That's the source of the disease pressure and the loss of vigor that we will experience with the 2019 planting,” said Malone.

The first step growers can take to ensure good seed is to read the seed label. The industry standard for labeling requires seed companies to test the seeds’ germination and put that information on the label.

“Germination tells you the percent of viable living seed in that unit,” he said. “Every state has somewhat different standards.”

Traditionally, in the northern and western states where seed quality is not usually an issue, the states’ minimum standard is 90 percent germination. Nine out of every 10 seeds planted will likely germinate.

“In the south, where we do have prevalent disease pressure that is a little more predictable, 80 percent is typically the standard minimum,” he said. “So, a grower can start out by asking the manufacturer of the variety that they have selected what are the specific quality analysis on that lot of seed.”

Knowing the germination of a purchased lot of seed is essential to properly setting the planter. Every grower has a desired population of plants they want to see grow in a given field. Should the germination rate be different this year, the seeding rate will need to be adjusted to make up for the change.

“That way they can ensure an adequate stand or at least give themselves a chance for an adequate stand,” he said. “But, it's two sides of the coin, in addition to having that is alive, it also needs to have enough vigor to emerge under less-than-ideal conditions.”

With the disease pressure seen in 2018, the new soybean crop is at risk of carrying fungal spores with it into the field. Even in fields with good crop rotation plans, where soybean diseases did not have a host to develop in during last year, there is still a risk of carryover in the seed itself.

Seed treatments and broad-spectrum fungicides applied to the seed could prove very profitable in the coming year.

“For the last 10 maybe dozen years, our seed treatment and seed growth technology has really jumped by leaps and bounds,” said Malone. “It has a crossed the line of being an investment rather than an expense.”

Malone strongly recommends growers consider the seed treatments available to them for the 2019 growing season.

“If I'm a grower in 2019, I’m applying a broad-spectrum fungicide seed treatment on my soybean seed,” he said. “It is going to be pretty critical that the seed gets treated this year.”

The other issue growers may need to watch out for are potential seed shortages.

“For all companies, all brands across the U.S. there is going to be limitations to how many units are available for any particular variety,” he said. “That all has to do with the loss of seed quality.”

Growers should continue to select the variety of seed, with the maturity day that they know will perform best in their given fields and area. However, they should also be certain to have a second or even third option in mind, just in case their first choice becomes unavailable.

It would also be wise to plan ahead for potential replant acres. For fields that are prone to flooding and have a history of needing to be replanted, keep in mind the seed might not be available. The seed that is available may be of even lower quality.

“It wouldn't hurt for a grower to stay in constant contact with their retailer and seed advisor, make sure the variety they are ordering is being delivered,” said Malone. “It probably wouldn't hurt to go ahead and pick it up when it comes in, make sure they’ve got it when they want it, I would say that would be a warranted move this year.”