June 05, 2018

Certified Seed vs. Saved Seed: Wheat Experts Compare Costs and Benefits

As a wheat grower, you strive every day to maximize yield and profit potential. You are diligent with your inputs and production practices. But if you’re saving seed, or planting “bin-run” seed, you might be leaving money on the table.

Lance Embree, WestBred® Regional Commercial Manager for the Southern Region, and Mark Lubbers, WestBred Technical Product Manager for the Central Region, recently sat down with Darwin Ediger, a Kansas wheat grower and owner of Ediger Ag, LLC. The group discussed the yield and profit potential that Certified Seed provides to wheat growers.

Q: We’re talking today about “Certified Seed.” What is the certification process, and what assurances do growers have that this seed is pure?

A: Everything is regulated at the state level. In Oklahoma, for example, growers can be assured that the Certified Seed they purchase meets stringent standards – 98 percent pure seed, less than 2 percent inert matter, less than .01 percent weed seed, less than 2 percent other varieties and so on. In addition, all production Certified Seed is from parent-seed stock. The fields have been examined by trained inspectors and the conditioning and handling systems have also been inspected. And, upon completion of the conditioning process, everyone must submit a sample to a laboratory to be inspected again for any inert matter.

Q: By contrast, what is “saved” seed (often called “bin-run seed”)?

A: Saved seed is usually harvested by a grower, put in a bin and planted the following fall. It lacks the safeguards that Certified Seed has. There are obvious costs to saving seed; handling, storage and conditioning, to name a few. But there are other dangers growers may not think of, like the fact that untested, saved seed could contain noxious weeds, joint grass or other impurities that could contaminate their acres.

Q: What benefits does Certified Seed provide?

A: You know that nearly every seed you put in the ground is a viable seed and is going to be weed-free. You also know your seed-per-pound count, so you can target your ideal seeding rate. And, you have the flexibility to spread your risk out by planting multiple varieties, as opposed to being limited to those you planted last fall. You get to try the newest ones available, and those often have better disease control and yield potential.

Q: What misperceptions do growers have about Certified Seed?

A: The biggest, without a doubt, is that it’s too expensive. But once they take a closer look, I think they’ll see it actually saves them money. University data shows a three-bushel yield advantage over saved seed – and that’s a conservative estimate1. Growers should also consider the genetic purity that Certified Seed provides. There are also misperceptions about a lack of supply. In most situations, there will be adequate supply. We work hard to balance the right amount of production and the right amount of forecasted seed, so we can identify shortages and work with seed growers in those areas.

Q: How can growers learn more and determine which varieties will work best on their operations?

A: Do your research, talk with your agronomist and work with your local seed supplier, who can talk you through which varieties work best in your area. This time of year, there are lots of field days and wheat tours, so consider attending one and asking questions. You can also reference the wheat profitability calculator on WestBred.com. It’s a tool that allows growers to plug in variables from their farms to determine benefits for themselves.