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Soybean seed quality questionableSoybean seed quality questionable

Pod and stem blight affected the Illinois soybean crop this past fall. Here’s what that has to do with germination rates on seed for 2019.

Holly Spangler

January 29, 2019

3 Min Read
soybeans in palm of hand
BLIGHT: Pod and stem blight has turned up in selected seed samples at rates as high as 86%, says Steve Beals with the Illinois Crop Improvement Association.

Pod and stem blight may not have affected soybean yield much in 2018, but if tests from the Illinois Crop Improvement Association are any indication, it certainly could affect seed quality.

Known scientifically as phomopsis, the blight has turned up in selected seed samples at rates as high as 86%, says Steve Beals, ICIA seed technologist and seed lab director. “Treating soybeans for phomopsis is going to be a must for selected seed lots this season,” Beals says, adding that he doesn’t recommend trying to rescue a seed lot with an infection rate of 20% of more.

“Once the seed coat has been penetrated, the fungus can continue to grow into the seed, invading and breaking down the embryo and endosperm,” he adds. Breakdown of those tissues affects quality, even when the fungus dies back under dry storage conditions. That damage affects both viability and vigor.

“There are simply too many variables to move away from our recommendation that you make decisions on a lot-by-lot and treatment-by-treatment basis,” Beals recommends.

ICIA found the following germ rates, as of late January:

• Central: 90.3
• East: 83.6
• East-southwest: 84.7
• Northeast: 92.8
• Northwest: 74.1
• Southeast: 76.4
• Southwest: 82.6
• West: 86.5
• West-southwest: 78.0
• Out of state: 83.8

In his interview with Prairie Farmer, Beals offers a closer look at the Illinois soybean seed germination situation for 2019.

What are you testing seed for? How much do you test each year? We test seed for quality factors such as viability, vigor and seed purity. We test thousands of soybean seed samples each year.

What germination scores are you seeing so far, and how have they changed the past couple of months? We are seeing quite a bit of variability. Scores range from zero to 99%. The average is currently at 83.8%.

How does that compare with past years, overall? This year we are seeing lower germinations than last year.

Why are they lower this year? This year we are seeing fungal issues associated with the timing of harvest and the wet weather. Scores vary from field to field and from lot to lot, depending on harvest conditions.

Is it a regional problem in Illinois? In the Midwest, Illinois is not alone in this issue, and we are seeing harvest issues affecting many of the soybean seed-producing areas of the country.

Can fungicide improve germination scores? Yes and no. Fungicides can improve the performance of seed with seedborne fungi, but it does not cure mechanical damage and severe infections that penetrate the embryo and endosperm. Sometimes fungicide takes care of one problem only to reveal another like mechanical damage. Physical damage to an essential structure of the embryo or seed is called mechanical damage.

What do farmers need to do this spring? As always, purchase seed from a reputable seed company. Farmers need to know that they are receiving the best seed available. Lower-than-normal germs may require an adjustment to planting rates. Farmers should work closely with their seed company and suppliers, as returning a seed lot may mean they have rejected the best they can get.

What’s your take on treated seed? It is impossible to make a blanket statement or recommendation due to the harvest issues. Proper testing provides the information necessary to make decisions on a lot-by-lot and treatment-by-treatment basis. Seed treatment can help but provides protection in the field, and treated seed should not be considered inferior by any means.

Questions or concerns about different treatment options? Contact Beals at [email protected], or call 217-359-4053. You can also download the Crop Protection Network’s soybean seed treatment guide.

About the Author(s)

Holly Spangler

Senior Editor, Prairie Farmer, Farm Progress

Holly Spangler has covered Illinois agriculture for more than two decades, bringing meaningful production agriculture experience to the magazine’s coverage. She currently serves as editor of Prairie Farmer magazine and Executive Editor for Farm Progress, managing editorial staff at six magazines throughout the eastern Corn Belt. She began her career with Prairie Farmer just before graduating from the University of Illinois in agricultural communications.

An award-winning writer and photographer, Holly is past president of the American Agricultural Editors Association. In 2015, she became only the 10th U.S. agricultural journalist to earn the Writer of Merit designation and is a five-time winner of the top writing award for editorial opinion in U.S. agriculture. She was named an AAEA Master Writer in 2005. In 2011, Holly was one of 10 recipients worldwide to receive the IFAJ-Alltech Young Leaders in Ag Journalism award. She currently serves on the Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation, the U of I Agricultural Communications Advisory committee, and is an advisory board member for the U of I College of ACES Research Station at Monmouth. Her work in agricultural media has been recognized by the Illinois Soybean Association, Illinois Corn, Illinois Council on Agricultural Education and MidAmerica Croplife Association.

Holly and her husband, John, farm in western Illinois where they raise corn, soybeans and beef cattle on 2,500 acres. Their operation includes 125 head of commercial cows in a cow/calf operation. The family farm includes John’s parents and their three children.

Holly frequently speaks to a variety of groups and organizations, sharing the heart, soul and science of agriculture. She and her husband are active in state and local farm organizations. They serve with their local 4-H and FFA programs, their school district, and are active in their church's youth and music ministries.

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