Five Considerations for Bin Run Wheat

It’s the third week in June and it’s hard to believe that wheat harvest in Kansas has just begun. The seven-day outlook is calling for warmer temps, and the start of harvest is still on the horizon for many areas of the High Plains.

For a lot of farmers, saving seed for next year’s crop is an important part of wheat harvest.

AdobeStock_145212937-1-1Here are five key considerations for selecting what you plan to save back:

1. One-Time Use Agreements

Many newer varieties have one-time use agreements that prevent you from saving seed. Even though wheat doesn’t have traits like corn and soybeans, there are variety and germplasm patents in place that allow companies to enforce these single-use agreements. Be sure to check that the varieties you plan to save do not fall under any single-use agreements. If you don’t remember signing a single-use agreement, check with your salesman. This information can often be found on bag tags as well.

2. Weed Pressure

One of the biggest concerns with saving wheat seed is ensuring that your saved seed comes from a field that is free of weeds. You can have your seed cleaned, but harvesting a field without any weeds is the best line of defense against weed seeds, such as those from jointed goatgrass, that are nearly impossible to separate out.

3. Seed-borne Diseases

Be on the lookout for any seed-borne diseases that may cause issues down the road. If common bunt, loose head smut or fusarium (scab) are present in your saved seed, the disease will be much greater in your next crop. Consider using a seed-applied fungicide and insecticide to help protect the crop as seedlings are developing.

4. Storage

Wheat should be dried to 10-12% moisture before storage. Be mindful not to dry seed above 90 degrees Fahrenheit , as it may affect germination. Regardless of where you store your wheat between harvest and planting, make sure that any old seed has been cleaned out, as it can harbor pests. Try and select a location where temperature and humidity are low to decrease insect activity. Frequently monitor your wheat seed for insects that may require treatment.

5. Germination Testing

When you purchase certified seed wheat, your germination is usually around 90%. When using bin run seed, it’s important to check your seed germination, so that adjustments can be made to seeding rates at planting time. One option for germination testing is sending a sample to be tested at a lab (such as the Kansas Crop Improvement Association, Washington State Crop Improvement Association, Montana State Seed Lab, Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, etc.) For a nominal fee these labs can typically test anything from cold germ to purity and noxious weed presence.

Another option is a quick germination test at home.

This procedure comes from K-State Extension:

  1. Place two moistened paper towels on top of each other on a flat surface. The towels should not have free water in them.
  2. Arrange 50 seeds on the towels leaving approximately an inch border around the edges.
  3. Place two more moistened towels over the seeds.
  4. Make a 0.5 to 0.75 inch fold at the bottom of the four paper towels. This will keep the seed from falling out.
  5. Starting on one side, loosely roll the paper towels toward the other side,like rolling up a rug, and place a rubber band around the roll.
  6. Place the roll in a plastic bag. Seal, but not completely, so as to keep moisture in, but still allow some air into the bag.

For newly harvested seed:

  1. Place the bag upright in the refrigerator for five days and then remove it, and place it upright at room temperature for an additional 5-7 days.
  2. Remove the sample from the bag and unroll the towels.
  3. Count and record the number of healthy seedlings, looking for adequate root and shoot development.

For carryover seed or after September 1:

  1. Place the bag upright at room temperature for 5-7 days.
  2. Remove the sample from the bag and unroll the towels.
  3. Count and record the number of healthy seedlings, looking for adequate root and shoot development.

To calculate the germination percentage:

Divide the number of healthy seedlings by the number of seed tested and multiply by 100.

Example: 42 healthy seedlings multiplied by 100 equals 84 percent germination—50 seeds tested.

These considerations can go a long way in ensuring that the wheat seed going in the ground this fall has the best potential for a successful wheat crop in 2020.

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