Care needed when saving weather-damaged grain for seed
Recent wet weather through parts of the southern cropping region could impact on the viability of grain that growers are planning to retain for sowing in 2016.
Any grain subjected to wetting at harvest is more susceptible to poor germination, low vigour and degradation during storage and handling.
Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) Southern Regional Panel member Kate Wilson encourages growers to closely scrutinise seed being set aside for planting.
Mrs Wilson, a grain grower and agronomic consultant in Victoria’s Mallee, says it is essential that growers determine whether damage to grain caused by rain at harvest is purely cosmetic or the symptom of a seed-borne disease which will impact on germination.
“To ensure establishment of a healthy crop next season, it is important to pay particular attention to the seed that is being saved for sowing. Proper management of the seed starts at harvest and should continue right through to storage, handling and seeding next year,” Mrs Wilson said.
She said growers should also be aware that some cereal varieties were more susceptible to the effects of late season weather damage. For example, the imidazolinone-tolerant Kord CL Plus wheat is rated as being susceptible to pre-harvest sprouting.
To assist growers in determining whether grain is viable for sowing and what is an appropriate and effective seed management program, the GRDC offers a detailed Retaining Seed fact sheet.
The fact sheet states that the symptoms of seed quality deterioration can range from mild, such as a loose and wrinkled seed coat in some pulses, to more advanced, such as seed staining, fungal mould and visible signs of germination.
Unless canola seed was harvested before any weather damage it should not be retained for sowing due to the vulnerability of canola’s small seed.
And irrespective of availability, hybrid canola seed should not be retained for seed as the crop will not be true to the original first generation (F1) seed, according to the fact sheet.
Any retained seed should be graded and tested for germination and vigour. Testing for seed-borne disease is also recommended, especially with saved pulse seed.
Other key points contained in the GRDC fact sheet that growers should consider when retaining grain for seed include:
- While a laboratory seed test should be used to establish the germination percentage of on-farm retained seed before sowing, especially if it has been weather damaged, a simple on-farm germination test can be done in soil. This will give a good indication of emergence and seedling vigour as at germination.
- Seed-borne disease generally cannot be identified from visual inspection so requires laboratory testing.
- Achieving and maintaining low temperature, humidity and grain moisture content for stored grain is even more critical if grain has been weather damaged. As weather-damaged seed deteriorates faster than sound seed it should not be stored for more than 12 months.
- With many weedy pulse and cereal crops in a wet season, desiccation or crop topping often becomes necessary. Depending on timing and chemicals used, this could affect seed quality for sowing.
- Grain must not be retained for seed when glyphosate has been used in pre-harvest applications.
- Seedling emergence can be affected by sowing too deeply, cold or wet soil, some seed dressings and herbicides, and hard-setting soil.
Kate Wilson, GRDC Southern Panel
Sharon Watt, Porter Novelli
Caption: Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) Southern Regional Panel member Kate Wilson encourages close scrutiny of seed being set aside for planting.