My Seeds Have Been Sitting Around. Are They Still Good? – Maintaining Seed Viability

By Rick Sheffield | May 24, 2018
by Rick Sheffield
May 24, 2018

Non-viable seeds are often the cause of failure during seed sowing. There are many causes for poor viability:

  • A seed may never have been viable in the first place. Poor pollination causes many seeds to look good on the outside but be empty inside.
  • Insects or disease may have attacked a viable seed.
  • It may not have been stored properly to maintain viability.
  • It is just too old and has lost its vigor.

At Sheffield’s, we check all seed to ensure that it is viable.  There are 2 very simple tests that work quite well to quickly check quality.

1. The float test… Many times viable seeds can be separated from non-viable seed by floating in water.  If you float seed in water and some floats and some sinks, try cutting some of the floaters and also some of the sinkers.  If the floaters look empty or bad and the sinkers look full and good then you know this is a good method to easily separate out the bad seeds.  This method works well for many species of oak acorns that do not hold their caps. Occasionally in a dry year, good seed will float. You need to cut some floaters to see if this method should be used.

2. The cut test….Like the float test, this method is not 100% accurate, but one thing it will tell you for sure is if a seed is definitely bad. If you cut a seed and it is hollow inside, with no visible embryo or endosperm, it is more than likely not going to germinate. Of course, the cut test is a destructive test so do not use it on seeds where you have a very limited amount, or can’t waste any.

Most seeds keep better at cool or cold temperatures. There are species from the tropical rain forests that do not keep well at all, such as Cocoa. However, most seeds from colder or drier climates store relatively well at refrigerator temperature, for thosethat can’t be dried down such as Oak tree seeds and Chestnut tree seeds. Or frozen, if they can be dried to 10% moisture content or less such as Pine tree seed and Fir tree seed.

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The above article was sponsored by Sheffield’s. The information contained in this article may contain ads or advertorial opinions.
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