Soybean Germination: Three Tips to Maximize your Soybean Seed Quality

Steve Sick

Feb 01, 2019

The questions keep rolling in about soybean seed quality: Will a late harvest and wet weather impact the soybean seed supply to come for planting? The answer is pretty simple: Yes. While most farmers try not to get mad at a good rain, the abundance of water that many areas saw around harvest time created the ideal conditions for fungi, shattering and rotting; and the worst possible conditions for getting equipment into the field to protect the seed quality that was left.

In this less than favorable environment, many seed suppliers have reported higher occurrences of Phomopsis seed decay (Diaporthe fungus), a disease which can infect the pods and lead to lower germination rates.


With soybean quality issues on the horizon, check the germination rates on your seed bag tag, or contact the seed company for exact germination rates.For commercially produced seed, this can be found right on the seed bag tag. If you’re using your own seed or seed you’ve saved, make sure to have it germ and stress tested at a state lab to know what your opportunity is.

If your germination rates aren’t quite where you’d like them to be, here are a few steps you can take to ensure you get the most at planting.

Make sure you’re using a high-quality fungicide seed treatment. 

While lower quality seed may make it tempting to cut costs, don’t let seed treatment be where you cut corners. Research from Iowa State University shows that seed treatments can increase germination rates 10-15 percent, and more given the right mix. Limit handling as much as possible though, as low germ seed is more susceptible to mechanical injury.

Consider increasing your seeding rate.

If germination rates are below 90 percent, consider increasing your seeding rates to account for the difference. To get a number, divide the planned seeding rate by the percent germination to get the new rate.

For example, if you plan to plant 140,000 seeds per acre, and your germination rate is 85%, then 140,000/0.85 = 164,706. 165,000 would be your new planned rate.

Wait for the right planting conditions.

If it was difficult to find the right, quality seed at planting time, it will be even more difficult at replant; so, make sure that you put in every effort to get your soybean seed in the ground under ideal conditions. With concerns about low germ seed, this probably won’t be the year to be the first in the county to get your beans in the ground or to mud them in at the last minute.

If possible, it might be a good idea to plant your higher-germ seed first and save your lower germ percentages until later in the season when conditions for germinating seed are more favorable.

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Steve Sick

Feb 01, 2019