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Why it doesn't pay to plant bin-run soybean seed

Gil Gullickson 02/12/2013 @ 3:19pm Crops Technology Editor for Successful Farming magazine/Agriculture.com

Thinking about planting bin-run soybean seed?

That really hasn’t been an option for years, as seed and trait companies have vigorously protected their patented varieties. In 2015, though, that could be an option for soybeans containing the Roundup Ready 1 herbicide-tolerant trait. The patent on this first row-crop transgenic trait expires following the 2014-growing season. If you don’t violate any other seed patents contained in the variety, you will be able to legally save and plant Roundup Ready 1 soybean seed in 2015.

From an agronomic perspective, though, the question is why you’d ever want to do this.

Prior to the advent of transgenic technology, state crop improvement associations stressed the advantages of planting professionally grown, cleaned and bagged certified seed over bin-run seed.

Granted, it was cheaper back to plant bin-run seed. Still, certified seed always yielded more.

Shawn Conley, a University of Wisconsin Extension agronomist, analyzed data that North Carolina State University researchers published in 1991 comparing bin-run to professionally grown seed. The researchers analyzed 204 comparisons across 6 years in 16 locations with 35 varieties. They found a 1.9 bushel per acre advantage to certified seed over bin-run seed. In some cases, they were higher. Conley notes Wisconsin data showed a 2.2 bushel per acre advantage for certified over bin-run seed.

Today, this difference would likely be magnified due to improvements in seed technology, he adds.

What Saving Seed Entails

Quality is a major issue with bin-run seed. Farmers who raise soybeans for seed take painstaking care during the growing season, harvest and in storage to ensure top quality. Bin-run seed is often treated as commodity seed, which doesn’t have to meet the same exacting standards as soybeans specially grown for seed.

It’s possible to save your own soybean seed and have it be viable for next year’s planting. Still, you have to consider lots of hidden costs like interest, storage, and your own cleaning. Here’s a rundown from an analysis from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture on what you should do if you save soybean seed for planting next year.

  1. Plant seed from a crop that was originally planted with high quality, pure seed.

  2. Harvest seed only from a clean field. Scout seed fields for weeds and diseases during the growing season. Bin-run soybeans can spread weed and disease problems from one field to another.

  3. Physically clean your combine. Harvest a small area separately first to ensure the combine is clean.

  4. Monitor seed at harvest for seedborne diseases.

  5. Harvest soybeans for seed first. Wet and dry cycles cause significant deterioration in seed quality.

  6. Handle seed gently. Minimize the height from which seed is dropped into bins and wagons. Run augers full, at as low an angle and as slow as possible.

  7. Harvest soybeans close to 14% moisture. Excessively dry seed will cracked and be damaged more easily.

  8. Dry soybeans at temperatures below 104 degrees F.

  9. Clean seed to remove foreign matter.

  10. Clean bins thoroughly. Vacuum grain dust and remove moldy grain.

  11. Test soybean seed for vigor and germination at harvest and before planting. Fluctuations in temperature and humidity during storage can decrease these factors.

Another Option

Or, you could just buy the soybean seed from a seed company.

You’ll pay more, but all the above work is up to them, not you. Past research also shows professionally grown soybean seed will yield more.

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