Your Seed Didn’t Emerge Like You Expected? Here are Four Possible Reasons Why

LeRoy Toohey

May 13, 2019

You’ve probably seen more than a few articles about possible seed quality and germination concerns for the 2019 planting season. Most of these were related to soybeans, and while it would be easy to conclude that any emergence issues you might encounter this year could be related to poor seed quality, that isn’t necessarily the case.

There are a number of factors that can play into how well your seed emerges—here are four possible reasons why your seed emergence was a letdown:

  • Conditions at planting: Less than ideal planting conditions can have a significant impact on emergence. Cold wet soils, compaction, crusting, incorrect planting depth—these can all lead to corn seed that dies or struggles to emerge. Even if planting conditions were OK, but cold or wet conditions occurred soon after, weather can have a big impact on your crops ability to break through.

  • Pests: Wireworms, seedcorn maggots, birds and rodents can all be the culprit when pest injury is the cause of your emergence issues. With insect damage, seeds will often be hollowed out, while birds and rodents will remove the seeds or leave parts scattered.

  • Herbicide: Herbicide damage can often display itself as off color seedlings or plant deformity, including twisted or club roots. Cool weather at and after planting, along with poor soil conditions, can increase the chance of herbicide injury.

  • Disease: Seeds and seedlings with a discolored root could be the victims of seedling disease. While fungicide seed treatments can protect the seeds and seedlings early, they only last a few weeks. Diseases such as pythium, fusarium and other seed rots can infect the plant causing plant deformity or even death.  As with herbicide injury, wet, cool conditions can exacerbate this issue.

Pro Tip: Give your crop a chance to do its thing. It can take corn seed up to 4 weeks to emerge if conditions aren’t right, but delayed emergence doesn’t necessarily mean decreased yields. Just keep an eye out for other common emergence or stand issues to determine if a replant is necessary.

ALWAYS READ AND FOLLOW LABEL USE INSTRUCTIONS. It is a violation of federal and state/provincial law to use any crop protection chemical or product other than in accordance with its label. The distribution, sale and use of an unregistered crop protection chemical or product is a violation of federal and/or state law and is strictly prohibited. It is your responsibility to confirm prior to purchase and use that a product is labeled for your specific purposes, including, but not limited to, your target crop or pest and its compatibility with other products in a tank mix.


LeRoy Toohey

May 13, 2019