When Seed Corn Doesn't Make The Grade

This past spring saw a flurry of seed corn returns to companies, as farmers grappled with soggy soils and planting delays.

So, what happens to those bags of returned seed? Companies typically run it back through their internal evaluation and conditioning processes which include warm and cold germination tests. Seed meeting a specific company’s germination standards is then made available for you to buy and replant the following year. This is a standard operating procedure in the seed industry.

In some cases, if the germination percentage is slightly below quality standards, a company might opt to “blend returned seed with fresh corn to bring those germ percentages back up where they need to be,” notes Ken Ferrie, Farm Journal Field Agronomist. He adds this option is not common in the seed industry, which has increasingly high standards.

Sometimes, a company will donate poor quality seed for free to a conservation organization to use as ground cover or for plantings to feed wildlife.

Other companies opt to incinerate any seed corn they deem is of substandard quality to ensure that it stays out of production, and your fields, altogether.

And then there are those cheap bags of seed sold in plain, white bags that you can sometimes buy online or at your local ag supply store. Often, this is seed corn a company brokered to someone else to sell because it didn’t meet the company’s brand quality standards.

Depending on what you want to achieve with that seed product, it might be ok for your purposes. Just remember, it’s nearly impossible to take an inferior, low-yielding product and turn it into something of high value, so try and keep your expectations in check accordingly.