You will be relieved to know that this season germination results are much better than expected. Overall the average germination for most of the province is coming in well over the minimum grade standard of 85%.
Watch for frost damage
However, recent reports indicated that there are several regions that had poor harvest conditions and early killing frosts.
We are seeing frost damaged seed from the Central and Northeast regions of Alberta as well as the Peace Country. The damage has had a detrimental effect in oats, wheat and barley samples. Our general rule here is to remark on our reports of analysis that X% has been affected by frost. The higher the percentage the more prone the sample is to further decay and deterioration.
Frost damage is significant as it kills undeveloped immature seed quickly and a just touch of frost can impair the cell structure in mature seed. The delicate cell structures will rupture and become damaged often causing the seed to die off over time as well. We recommend sourcing new seed if frost has impacted the quality and is affecting germination.
Add a vigour test
Poor growing and poor harvest conditions in the Peace Country and the Northwest part of Alberta have contributed to immaturity especially in wheat, which is why germinations are high and vigour results are low. Germination testing is not designed to uncover all elements of poor quality. Testing seed with optimum conditions masks immaturity because applying good conditions does not pull out the problems that may be lurking with immaturity. Germination is conducted at 20ºC, has adequate water with a balanced pH and perfect light conditions. Dormancy is usually the by-product of immaturity. We are experiencing both primary and secondary dormancy. Both are common reasons for low results both in germination and vigour. If you have high germination and low vigour, do not ignore it, test frequently and make sure you ask your lab to share their protocol. Vigour is not accredited in Canada which leaves the door open for labs to interpret a protocol (if they have one) in any way they see fit. An inappropriate vigour protocol may misrepresent the result which does no one any favours. Last year many growers were disappointed with their field emergence because the results they received did not reflect what happened in the field. We follow a protocol that has been developed for the Canadian Prairies and has been used with much success over the past 17 years.
We have relied on the cold cereal stress test to predict field emergence under cool spring conditions. The producer is then equipped with the knowledge and confidence in knowing that early sowing as well as targeting a known seeding rate will give him the plant stand and ultimately the yield that he expects.