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Troup extension agent: Deciphering the seed tag

Brian Maddy

Contributing columnist

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At this time of the year the seed and plant catalogs start arriving and piling up.

Disease problems can be licked early on if you select the right variety. If you wondered why those peas didn’t come up uniformly, did you read the germination rate on the seed tag? How much pure live seeds were in that packet?

The Federal Seed Act as well as state seed laws require that each seed lot offered for sale must be truthfully labeled. By reading an understanding the seed tag it can prevent some problems down the road.

There may be a lot of information on that label to digest. Each tag must contain the variety and kind, lot number, origin – where the seed was grown, net weight, pure live seed, percent inert matter which is plant debris other than seed, percent other crop seeds, percent weed seeds, names of noxious weeds, percent germination, hard seed — which are seeds that won’t germinate — germination test date and the name and address of the company responsible for the analysis.

Key information on that label is the percent pure live seed and germination percent. There should be more than 90 percent live seed and the germination percent should be greater than 90 percent as well.

Why is this important? If you have 90 percent of the seed pure live seed and only 50 percent germination you will have to plant almost twice as much seed to get the same result if the germination rate was over 90 percent. Don’t purchase seed with low germination rates or low amounts of pure live seed.

Don’t purchase seed with a high percentage of inert material or weed seeds. Even 1 percent weed seeds can infest your garden. Never plant problems. Check the date when the seed lot was tested as well.

Bargain-priced seeds may not be a bargain. Bags of seed that also have a blue label would indicate that the seed is certified seed. A state agency has approved that the seed is the correct progeny and has been handled to maintain genetic identity and purity.

Vegetable seed packets have additional information on them and they are usually code words. The code words Hb, F1 or F2 mean that these seeds are hybrids. They are the result of breeding two inbred lines and then crossing them. Usually the result is hybrid vigor and the offspring will out produce the parents.

Hybrid seed corn has resulted in yields going from 45 bushels per acre to over two hundred bushels per acre. The drawback is that you can’t save the seed for next year. Much like a mule, which is a hybrid, it will not produce much. It is possible to still purchase open pollinated, OP, varieties of corn but you really have to look hard.

Maturity information is valuable because it tells you how many days it’ll take before harvest. Some varieties may be labeled “early” and they may be ready to harvest earlier that a medium or late variety. The letter H stands for heirloom varieties and the letter S indicates a standard variety.

Disease and pest information is also very important. VFN is commonly run together to indicate that the plant is resistant to verticillium wilt, fusarium fungus and nematodes. TMV stands for resistance to tobacco mosaic virus. Y on a cabbage seed label indicates resistance to yellows, a common fungus. Anthracnose resistance in beans and cucumbers or altenaria stem fungus resistance in tomatoes are indicated by the letter A.

BMV means resistance to bean mosaic virus. CMV means resistance to cucumber mosaic virus. EB indicates resistance to early blight in tomatoes. Screening your seed purchases for resistance to diseases gives you a better chance of harvesting a crop than buying seeds that have no resistance at all.

Understanding the information on the seed tag can go a long way to having a successful crop year.

Tree seedlings can be ordered from the Georgia Forestry Commission, 706-845-4122.

Jan. 14: Master Gardener Extension volunteer meeting, Ag Center, 7 p.m.

Jan. 18: Troup County Association of Beekeepers, 7 p.m., Ag Center. Guest Speaker: Jim Quick, master beekeeper.

Jan. 19: Troup County Cattleman, 7 p.m., Ag Center. Dinner starts at 7 p.m. for $6; program at 7:30 p.m. Guest speakers: Wes Smith, UGA Extension; topic: controlled breeding.

Feb. 11: MGEV meeting, Ag Center, 7 p.m. Guest speaker: Tia Gonzales, Auburn University.

If you have any questions or concerns, stop by or call the office. UGA has a wealth of information for home and property owners.

Brian Maddy is the ANR Agent for Troup County Extension. The Troup County Extension office is located at 114 Church St. in LaGrange and may be reached at 706-883-1675, Monday–Friday 8 a.m.–noon and 15 p.m.