The seed analysis tag is your guarantee of what you are paying for. Good knowledge of what that tag tells you can be a useful tool in receiving the best value for your money. Be especially aware of the seed variety, pure seed, germination and test date on an analysis tag:
The Kentucky Seed Law requires a variety statement. In some circumstances, this statement can be variety unknown, which is not a good option. But a little research on performance characteristics of named varieties before purchase can also pay big dividends. Purchase seed that is labeled with a variety name. That can be an actual name or a designation that is a set of numbers and letters.
Be aware of the practice of branding varieties. A brand designation should have the word “brand” to designate the brand name if a brand is used. The word “variety” should be by the variety name. Some products have a set of numbers and letters without a designation as to what these numbers and letters are. Beware of these as they are not properly identified.
Look for the word variety on the label. If you compare brands with the actual variety names, don’t be surprised when you find that different companies are marketing the same variety by different brand names.
High pure seed values mean there is more actual seed in the bag. The pure seed value on the analysis tag is a percent by weight. A 98 percent pure seed value means that one hundred pounds of that seed lot will have 98 pounds of seed of the labeled variety. Typically, grains, alfalfas, and clovers with pure seed values of 98 percent or better are available. Be aware that coated alfalfa and clover seed will have a much lower pure seed value, typically 62-64 percent. The coating material on alfalfas and clovers is usually around 34 percent and is inert matter.
Tall fescue also should be available with a 98 percent pure seed value. Orchardgrass, which is a more chaffy seed kind than tall fescue will normally have a lower pure seed value, but 95-96 percent values are typical.
The germination value is the actual percent of the pure seed that will emerge under normal conditions in a short period of time, usually 7-28 days, and produce a good seedling. Typical germinations vary by seed kind. Seed corn typically is labeled with 95 percent germination, soybeans and wheat are typically labeled with 85 percent germination, and most traditional grasses and legumes — with the exception of native species—are typically labeled with 85 percent germination.
Some years, these values will be lower. When purchasing look for the higher germination values. Some seed kinds will also be labeled to show hard seed and dormant seed. Hard and dormant seed does take longer to germinate. The hard seed and dormant seed values should be added to the germination percentage stated on the label to get the total guaranteed germination.
The seed test date should always be within nine months of your purchase. Tobacco seed should be used within six months. Don’t buy seed that has a test date that falls outside of these periods. Seed is a live product and the germination percentage does decrease with age.
A quick pure live seed (PLS) calculation is very useful to find out how many pounds of the seed is actually guaranteed to germinate. PLS is basically pure seed multiplied by germination.
Other labeling requirements include inert matter, crop seed, weed seed and noxious weeds. You can maximize your seed dollar by buying named varieties that are labeled with high pure seed and germination percentages. Also, always check the seed test date.