INSIDERS No, Your Seed Has Not Gone to Sleep

No, Your Seed Has Not Gone to Sleep


Sarah Foster
Sarah Foster
President and Senior Seed Analyst, 20/20 Seed Labs - Sarah Foster is a registered seed technologist, senior seed analyst and president of 20/20 Seed Labs — a company she started in 1989 that provides testing services for all crop kinds, including extensive quality and seed health analysis, molecular testing and accredited crop inspection. Involved in the seed industry since the late 1970s, Foster studied and qualified as an accredited seed analyst at the National Institute of Agricultural Botany in Cambridge, England. Her work experience includes seven years with Sharps Seed International (Advanta) in the United Kingdom, and five years with the United Grain Growers in Edmonton after immigrating to Canada in 1984.

Dormancy. It’s a loaded word in the seed world.

People often think dormant seed is simply asleep, waiting to come out of hibernation, like a bear.

It may look like it’s sleeping, but it’s not. Just like when a person goes to sleep, dormant seed is still alive and functioning. There are a number of factors that make dormancy something we all should be concerned with right now.

Dormancy is complicated because there are several types, and it is often confused with dead seed. A seed analyst has to know how to identify dormancy and how to overcome it. Dormant seed is fresh seed that has not germinated yet. These are seeds that remain firm at the end of the prescribed test period. The seed will have imbibed water and will appear very plump and healthy. It will have a clean appearance unlike a decayed seed, which is dead.

Dormancy can mask other quality issues such as chemical damage and frost, both of which can be detrimental to germination. Having an accurate germination value is imperative for field planting potential.

There are a series of testing regimes to help you find out where that sweet spot is for germination to take place under stressful conditions.
Endogenous dormancy is the most common form of dormancy. This is when a seed has an excess of a germination inhibitor such as abscisic acid. This happens when the seed is not physiologically mature and has high moisture content. Subjecting the seed to very cold conditions will relieve this type of dormancy naturally.

We are very aware of dormancy every year, and we do everything we can to alleviate the concern. We must achieve the highest germination result we possibly can.

Perhaps most importantly, dormancy speaks to the larger issue of seed longevity. After a tough harvest, seed may have degraded in storage. Dormancy can be mistaken for frost damage and vice-versa. Combine that with unpredictable spring weather to come, and you have the perfect storm for problems to arise.

There are a series of testing regimes to help you find out where that sweet spot is for germination to take place under stressful conditions. We offer a variety of solutions and testing packages to establish seed quality. It is important to learn as much as you can about the performance and health of your seed while there’s still time and before the new season begins.