Monday, June 27, 2011

How To Test Seeds For Germination Rate

Granny Miller has easy information about testing seeds.
Last summer for the first time my husband and I grew a very rare variety of heritage field corn known as Early Butler.

We are growing the corn for animal feed because it has a very high protein content and is a short season corn which is perfect for northern homesteads or farms.

My husband has promised to do a post about the corn sometime in the near future. We plan to offer a limited amount of the corn for sale this coming spring.

We had the corn tested for protein content and other nutrients.
And last week I tested it for germination rate.

Germination rate is the term used to describe the percentage of seed from a particular plant species that will emerge when given the right conditions.

The germination rate is important information about any type of seed and helps the home gardener or farmer determine ahead of time how thickly or thinly any given seed needs to be sown.

Germination rate is a consideration whenever you are ordering seeds from a catalog or if you have leftover seeds from previous years and you want to use them.

Seeds will not last indefinitely and some seeds are more time sensitive than others.

Keeping all vegetable and flower seed cool and dry will go a long way in helping to preserve its viability and seed life.

Most vegetable seeds will last about 3 years and some can last as long as 6 years.

Corn, onions, leeks, chives, green peppers, parsley and sometimes parsnips, are seeds that don’t store well and should be tested every year before planting if they were held over from the prior year.

Beans, peas, beets, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, kale, carrots, eggplant, squash, pumpkins, tomatoes, basil, sage, rue, borage, anise, dill, oregano and most herbs have a seed life of between 3 – 4 years.

Spinach, lettuce, cucumbers and most melons have a seed life of about 5 and sometimes 6 years.

For most common garden vegetables or flowers, seed germination rate is easy to test at home, and it’s always a good idea to test germination rate if the seed is much older than 2 years old or wasn’t stored under ideal conditions.

The way that I test seed for viability and germination rate is by first counting out 20 seeds.

I then place the seeds on top of small plate that has been lined with a wet paper towel or inside a paper towel where a little bit of potting soil has been sprinkled.

The paper towel lined plated is then placed inside a plastic bag and sealed and left on top of the refrigerator or in a warm room for about a week or 10 days depending upon the type of seed.

Not all seeds have the same requirements to germinate.

Some seeds take longer than others to germinate and some seeds require total darkness, freezing, bottom heat or other conditions for germination.

Once the seeds begin to germinate I count seeds and find the percentage. By using 20 seeds for testing I’m able to get the percentage in 5% increments.

The Early Butler corn seed tested out at 90% – maybe 95% . The rate could have been 100% but I wasn’t going to wait any longer to calculate the rate for just one kernel that maybe looked like it was beginning to sprout.
To evaluate germination rates the following percentages are helpful when making garden plans and decisions about sowing rates.

100% – Great! You can’t do any better than that.

90% – Excellent. You can count on the planting rate information supplied with the seed.

80% – Good. You shouldn’t have too many problems as long as environmental conditions are favorable.

70% to 60% – Poor. If you want to use the seed better sow it very thick.

50% or Less – Don’t waste your time and throw it out. Buy fresh seed.

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