Kansas' seed certification agency is responding to the needs of farmers this year by making additional certified seed available for purchase. The board of directors of the Kansas Crop Improvement Association decided Thursday to allow a sub-standard test weight classification for 2007 seed sales.
The board's decision came in response to the needs of wheat growers in parts of the state hardest hit by severe weather. Many farmers in these areas have already expressed concern over what they fear will be regional shortages in certified seed availability.
According to Bob Bunck, KCIA president, the decision to temporarily certify seed of sub-standard test weight came down to providing the best possible options for Kansas wheat growers.
"The weather this year has been tough on much of the Kansas seed wheat crop," he says. "When farmers buy certified seed, they are getting seed of a known origin and known quality. If the alternative is to just plant whatever's in the grain bin, we certainly want to discourage that type of risk."
Certified seed is field-inspected and lab-tested before being assigned a label containing information including variety, germination, and purity.
This year, seed that has a test weight of at least 52 pounds per bushel, but that falls below the normal standard, will be labeled as "sub-standard for test weight" but may still be certified—as long as it meets all other quality standards.
"Test weight is important, but it's not the only quality factor," Bunck says. "It's better to know what you're getting, even if the test weight isn't optimal, than to risk your next crop on seed of an unknown variety or origin, littered with weed seed, rye, and disease."
KCIA Executive Director Daryl Strouts says the most important factor in purchasing seed is selecting varieties that are well-adapted to the grower's region. Most varieties are protected by the Plant Variety Protection Act, which means that if a grower is not saving his own seed, he must buy certified seed.
"Making more seed available for certification just means that more farmers will be able to buy seed legally, and also that they will be able to make a low-risk investment into next year's crop by using certified seed," Strouts says.
The sub-standard test weight decision is effective only for seed purchased until the end of 2007. Carryover seed with a sub-standard test weight will no longer be considered certified as of January 1, 2008.