Farmers planning to save wheat seed from this year's crop can make the most of it by following these steps, according to Daryl Strouts, executive director of the Kansas Crop Improvement Association:
¢ Take seed to a good seed cleaner, and bring in twice as much for cleaning as will be needed to plant. That will improve prospects for the best kernels being saved for planting.
¢ Spend the $15 it costs for a germination test, because scab-damaged crops have poor germination rates.
Wichita After a dismal winter wheat harvest, Kansas farmers are struggling with low quality and tight supplies of seed for their 2008 crop.
Their concern is so acute that the Kansas Crop Improvement Association, the group that sets the bar for certified seed in the state, has lowered its own minimum seed certification standards for seed harvested and marketed this year.
"Farmers were desperate for seed," said Daryl Strouts, executive director of the Kansas Crop Improvement Association, explaining the group's decision.
Demand for certified wheat seed has skyrocketed because so many Kansas farmers - many who typically save their own seed from part of each year's crop - either had such poor quality crops that it could not be used as seed for next year, or they lost their crop altogether.
The group took action to lower seed standards after realizing that many worried farmers simply were going to grain elevators and buying whatever wheat was available - even without knowing its variety or what weed problems came with it, just to have wheat to plant come fall, Stouts said.
The problem is particularly acute in central and eastern Kansas, areas hard hit by a late spring freeze. The battered wheat that survived the freeze then was pounded by disease and insect infestations, followed by unrelenting rains at harvest.
Kansas is the only state that sets a minimum standard for test weights before it certifies wheat seed. For years, that standard meant certified seed had to meet test weights of at least 56 pounds per bushel. The emergency standard this year will allow wheat with test weights as low as 52 pounds per bushel to qualify as certified seed.
For every three pounds of test weight farmers give up in the quality of their seed, they lose up to a bushel per acre of yield potential, he said.
Winter wheat is planted in the fall and harvested in late spring or early summer, depending on the region.