Making blanket statements about seed quality this year, for both corn and soybeans, is dangerous. That's the assessment after visiting with key industry contacts who supply seed to Indiana, the Midwest, and even across the country.
The mold issue with seed corn is a great case in point. For Beck's Hybrids, Atlanta, who grow most of their seed corn locally, Jim Herr says ear molds weren't really an issue. Herr is in charge of seed processing at Beck's Hybrids. However, his reason may be different than someone else's reason.
"Our seed corn quality is very good," he reiterates. "Disease played less of a factor for us on our seed corn because we sprayed lots of fungicides all season long. We invested the money upfront in those products, and we just didn't see molds that farmers saw on commercial hybrids."
Curt Clausen, in charge of seed processing for Pioneer Hi-Bred across north America, says they avoided issues with those diseases because most seed corn was harvested early enough, and at higher moistures, before ear molds began to show up across big areas of the Midwest. "Many of those problems came in later in commercial corn," he says. "Most of our seed was harvested before those problems could have developed."
Alan Glabraith sees samples form a wide range of producers in his role as assistant director of the Indiana Corp Improvement Association near Stockwell in Tippecanoe County. One role of ICIA is to run germination tests, both warm and cold tests, if requested, on samples that growers send to them.
"We've seen a good amount of Diplodia and some Giberella come in on seed samples," he says. "Guys can get much of it out with conditioning."
For diplodia, state-of-the art equipment such as color sorters can be set to kick out many kernels infected with diplodia. Since diplodia-infected kernels are also usually lighter, they can be separated out with some mechanical sorters.
Gibberella doesn't impact germination of seed, but diplodia does, Galbraith reports. Diplodia can kill seedling trying to germinate. If Gibberella is present, technicians may see tell-tale pinkish stains on wet towels after germination, but germination percentage isn't usually affected.
Plants that grow from infected kernels are normal, and not infected, Galbraith adds. If diseases are present on seed, it may add inoculum to the soil, but there's typically sufficient inoculum of these diseases in most soils anyway. What the diseases need are the right conditions to grow and flourish. The conditions that developed this year are largely responsible for the late outbreak of mold-type diseases.