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Should Cold Germination and Vigor be Standard for Soybeans?

  • Warm germination seed testing is the industry standard for soybean seed quality reporting.

  • There are currently no vigor testing standards for soybean seed.

  • Vigor tests are difficult to replicate, and the results are challenging to implement due to variable environmental conditions.

Planting Soybeans Earlier and Quality Testing

In recent years, popularity for planting soybeans earlier has increased. With this there has been a fair amount of interest in seed and vigor testing for soybeans. Currently, there are standard protocols set following the Association of Official Seed Analysts rules for testing seeds for germination and purity, but there is not standard protocol for seed vigor testing.

The quality of soybean seed is largely influenced by the growing conditions of the seed production field. Drought, rapid harvest dry-down, disease and insect damage all contribute to potential seed quality issues. Thin and fragile seed coats can lead to seed quality issues such as damaged seed coats, lower germination and poor seed appearance. The industry standard warm germination rate is 85%. However, Golden Harvest strives for 90% germination rates for all soybeans.

Current Soybean Seed Quality Standards

Golden Harvest utilizes a variety of quality control tests to evaluate soybean seed quality for conditioning and product release. The main tests utilized are the standard warm germination test, seed moisture and the hypochlorite (bleach) soak test. These tests are used to evaluate the physiological potential and mechanical damage potential for each seed lot. For certain later maturity varieties, the accelerated aging test is added to assess the potential stress of putting seed into storage conditions under less-than-ideal temperature and humidity.

Example of soybean quality test: warm germination, paper towel test
Figure 1. Warm germination paper towel test

There have been many attempts over the years to utilize a vigor test for assessing soybean quality. As with all vigor tests, the repeatability and correlation to field emergence have been the priority. There are currently no industry-wide standards for testing protocols and reporting for soybean vigor testing. Vigor testing results from third-party labs may be interpreted inconsistently and may not be representative of what will happen in the field. Many factors affect soybean seeds when planted into less-than-ideal conditions that cannot be mimicked in a laboratory test. Internal data from Golden Harvest® Agronomy in Action field trials indicate that the warm germination test continues to be the best predictor of seed quality and stand establishment.

Soybean Management and Seed Treatment Considerations

Planting soybeans early is beneficial only when soil and weather conditions are suitable. Planting into cool soils can delay germination and emergence. Cool, wet soils can expose soybeans to imbibitional chilling, which can cause seedling damage and decrease emergence. To avoid this type of risk, avoid planting soybean seed when soil temperatures are below 50°F, and avoid planting when rain is imminent within 24 hours after planting.

Soybean seed quality testers examine warm germination, paper towel test.
Figure 2. Warm germination paper towel test

Consider using a high-quality soybean seed treatment, and store soybean seed in cooler temperatures with lower humidity before planting to maintain the quality of the seed. Environmental conditions are the primary factors that influence successful soybean emergence and should be mitigated for as much as possible. Soybean seed quality testing ensures high-quality seed for farmers.

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Performance assessments are based upon results or analysis of public information, field observations and/or internal Syngenta evaluations.

Product performance assumes disease presence.

© 2022 Syngenta. Important: Always read and follow label instructions. Some products may not be registered for sale or use in all states or counties. Please check with your local extension service to ensure registration status. AAtrex 4L, AAtrex Nine-O, Acuron, Agri-Flex, Agri-Mek 0.15EC, Agri-Mek SC, Avicta 500FS, Avicta Complete Beans 500, Avicta Complete Corn 250, Avicta Duo Corn, Avicta Duo 250 Corn, Avicta Duo COT202, Avicta Duo Cotton, Besiege, Bicep II Magnum, Bicep II Magnum FC, Bicep Lite II Magnum, Callisto Xtra, Cyclone SL 2.0, Denim, Endigo ZC, Endigo ZCX, Epi-Mek 0.15EC, Expert, Force, Force 3G, Force CS, Force 6.5G, Force Evo, Gramoxone SL, Gramoxone SL 2.0, Gramoxone SL 3.0, Karate, Karate with Zeon Technology, Lamcap, Lamcap II, Lamdec, Lexar EZ, Lumax EZ, Medal II ATZ, Minecto Pro, Proclaim, Tavium Plus VaporGrip Technology, Voliam Xpress and Warrior II with Zeon Technology are Restricted Use Pesticides.

Some seed treatment offers are separately registered products applied to the seed as a combined slurry. Always read individual product labels and treater instructions before combining and applying component products.

Orondis Gold may be sold as a formulated premix or as a combination of separately registered products: Orondis Gold 200 and Orondis Gold.

Important: Always read and follow label and bag tag instructions; only those labeled as tolerant to glufosinate may be sprayed with glufosinate ammonium-based herbicides. LibertyLink®, Liberty® and the Water Droplet logo are registered trademarks of BASF. HERCULEX® and the HERCULEX Shield are trademarks of Corteva Agriscience LLC. HERCULEX Insect Protection technology by Corteva Agriscience LLC. Under federal and local laws, only dicamba-containing herbicides registered for use on dicamba-tolerant varieties may be applied. See product labels for details and tank mix partners. Golden Harvest® and NK® soybean varieties are protected under granted or pending U.S. variety patents and other intellectual property rights, regardless of the trait(s) within the seed. The Enlist E3® soybean, LibertyLink®, LibertyLink® GT27®, Roundup Ready 2 Xtend®, Roundup Ready 2 Yield® and XtendFlex® soybean traits may be protected under numerous United States patents. It is unlawful to save soybeans containing these traits for planting or transfer to others for use as a planting seed. Only dicamba formulations that employ VaporGrip® Technology are approved for use with Roundup Ready 2 Xtend® and XtendFlex® soybeans. Only 2,4-D choline formulations with Colex-D® Technology are approved for use with Enlist E3® soybeans. The trademarks or service marks displayed or otherwise used herein are the property of a Syngenta Group Company. ENLIST E3® soybean technology is jointly developed with Corteva Agriscience LLC and M.S. Technologies, L.L.C. The ENLIST trait and ENLIST Weed Control System are technologies owned and developed by Corteva Agriscience LLC. ENLIST® and ENLIST E3® are trademarks of Corteva Agriscience LLC. GT27® is a trademark of M.S. Technologies, L.L.C. and BASF. Roundup Ready 2 Xtend®, Roundup Ready 2 Yield®, XtendFlex®, VaporGrip® and YieldGard VT Pro® are registered trademarks used under license from the Bayer Group. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners. More information about Agrisure Duracade® is available at


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