WAUSAU — Seed treatments and low germination rates are going to be very important in the 2019 growing season, according to Shawn Conley, state Extension soybean and small grains specialist. At the recent agronomy update meetings throughout the state, Conley said farmers would have to be extra aware of what they are getting in their seed this year.

“It is very critical that you all pay attention to seed germination this year. Read the germ tags,” he said. “Industry wide, not only in Wisconsin, but across the Midwest and the country, seed quality is a relative concern.”

Conley said wet weather this fall made it nearly impossible for soybean harvest in much of the country. As the seed came into the elevators, many operators noted the poor quality seed, which included moldy or rotten beans from the excess moisture. With the poor quality, seed germinations are expected to be much lower than usual.

“This is going to be a challenge for us moving forward. We will have a less percent seed germination and the quality is not going to be what farmers are used to. We are used to 92 to 95 percent (germination) across the board, and I don’t think we are going to see that this year,” he said.

The poor seed quality comes at a time when farmers are looking to cut back anywhere they can to save money. With a dismal outlook and the tariffs still in place, seeding rate is one of the areas Conley said he sees farmers looking to cut back on.

“I just want to caution growers that if they are really going to significantly cut their seeding rate back and have a germ of 85 percent, be cautious. Do not under seed. You don’t want to start out with a population that you won’t be able to maximize your yield,” he said.

One area Conley said farmers should not cut out this year is seed treatments.

“Farmers are not going to want to cut seed treatments out. That is a bad idea. This is the worst year you can ever cut seed treatments out,” he said. “A lot of data shows that in some of these seed lots where we have subpar germination, 82 percent or in the high 70s, if you add a seed treatment on that, boom, it brings you back up to 90 percent germination.”

In some cases, seed treatments may cost farmers more this year, according to Conley, who said the cheap generics will not treat some of the more prevalent diseases this year. He said he also anticipates good seed coverage with seed treatments.

Conley also cautioned growers and agronomists to beware of cheap seed that will be available.

“There is going to be seed available — and a seed person told me this straight to my face — that they are calling ‘buyer beware seed.’ That means it is going to be cheap and you are going to take your chances because they are going to walk away from it as soon as you walk in,” he said. “There are going to be farmers that do that because they are desperate to plant cheap seed. Just be cautious of that.”

Conley said the big thing for farmers is to work with their seed person to understand what they have and the seed they are getting and make management decisions accordingly.