A new independent trial carried out by the National Association of Agricultural Contractors (NAAC) has proven that larger seed sizes of typical UK varieties of winter wheat and spring barley resulted in higher emergence rates, increased initial vigour, longer initial root and shoot lengths, higher root and shoot mass, greater initial tillering and greater initial leaf number.
Carried out by SGS in greenhouse conditions in early 2021, the results highlighted that seed size is a vital factor in potential yield, whether using farm saved or certified seed.
Commenting, Rob White, NAAC seed chairman said, ‘Farmers are increasingly questioning the need to have farm saved seed treated and cleaned. However, these results clearly highlight the importance of only filling the drill with viable seed. Larger seed sizes were proven to have higher germination, higher vigour and improved emergence compared to small seed sizes of the same lot.’
Based on the results in this trial, it’s expected that a crop drilled with smaller seed, or an uncleaned seed batch would result in a lower yield and perhaps lower quality of harvested grain than a crop drilled from a larger or cleaned seed batch. Small seeds in the drill are then effectively taking up space that could be occupied by a larger, more productive product.
Rob continued, ‘It is vital that farmers look hard at their farm-saving economics. Whilst costs can be cut by barn dipping, this may be a very short-sighted gain. Our results clearly show that seed that is cleaned and of larger size selection will put the crop at a competitive advantage by having initial growth gains. These bigger leafed and high tillering plants will also compete more vigorously with nuisance weeds like black grass. In field conditions, this is also likely to make smaller seeds, with a lower emergence rate and growing more slowly, more susceptible to pressure from pests and diseases which could further reduce crop vigour.’
Farmers should consider using a professional mobile seed contractor if intending to farm save, not only to select out larger more productive seeds, but also to remove weed seeds, stones and rubbish to maximise yield potential. Agronomic progress is moving on at a pace and growers must start with the basics of selecting the best possible seed sample to drill.
To locate an NAAC mobile seed processor see: https://www.naac.co.uk/findacontractor/