STARKVILLE, Miss. - Issues over seed quality and the subsequent ability of the seed to emerge into vigorous and consistent cotton stands resulted in a “stop-sale” order on several lots of a popular cottonseed variety in Mississippi.

Four lots of Delta and Pine Land 1218 BG/RR, also known to growers as Paymaster 1218, were among 15 different lots of cotton tested by the Mississippi Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Plant Industry for quality concerns. Specifically, the seed tests included germination, cool, tetrazolium and accelerated aging tests.

Of the 15 lots, only four were determined to be below industry standards due to poor germination rates or other indications of poor seed quality. MDAC Commissioner Dr. Lester Spell issued a “stop-sale” order on the four lots Friday.

Only one of the lots, which contain multiple sacks of seed, made its way to a customer distribution site. Bags of seed from that lot are being recalled from the distribution site and from any customers who may have taken possession of the seed. The seed could result in poor plant emergence and weak stands of the plants in the fields.

Bags from the other three lots were still in the warehouse of Delta and Pine Land Co., according the D&PL Vice President Randy Dismuke.

The MDAC’s Bureau of Plant Industry routinely tests thousands of bags of commercial seed sold within the state to grow multiple commodities including soybeans, corn, wheat and vegetables, and seldom are any bags found to be substandard to quality testing, MDAC officials said.

This relatively small amount of seed does not indicate a statewide problem and should not cause concern among growers that other seed they purchase are in anyway damaged or will not emerge into healthy, viable plants, says Mike Tagert, director of MDAC’s Bureau of Plant Industry.

The complaints received in late March related to “old” seed, but lot numbers indicated three of the seed lots to be two years old, which is not uncommon, and the remaining lot in question to be three years old, which occasionally approaches the seed quality borderline. However, according to MDAC, selling three-year-old seed is neither illegal nor unethical as long as performance is adequate.

“One of the seed lots tested for germination received a 71 percent rating, which is 9 points below the industry standard and the seed’s labeled statement of 80 percent,” an official said. Some of that seed has been sold to farmers, but is being recalled and DP&L is making full restitution and replacement of the seed.

According to Dismuke, the other three lots of seed tested by the Bureau, never left the warehouse or entered the distribution chain. The lots, bearing the numbers 350-S-2209-21H, 350-S-2209-2, 350-S-1225-2 and 350-S-2222-2 are all 1218 varieties, but lot 350-S-2222-2 was the only one distributed.

This particular round of testing was prompted by complaints from farmers concerned over the appearance and age of their cotton seed.

“Testing seed is a service we regularly provide for farmers if they are concerned there may be a problem with their seed,” says Tagert. “Usually, growers are more concerned over the age of their seed than anything else. It’s pretty much industry standard for all labeled seed to have a germination rate of 80 percent or higher, so that is seldom questioned,”

However, Tagert, Dismuke and Will McCarty, formerly Extension cotton specialist and now state program leader for agriculture and natural resources with Mississippi State University, agree that in some years older seed could actually be of higher quality than younger seed, if the younger seed were harvested under harsh and adverse weather conditions.

In addition to random sampling by MDAC, seed suppliers maintain current and stringent testing results on all their seed. That information is not available at the point of purchase, but a grower can ask his or her distributor for full disclosure on how the seed tested for germination, vigor and/or cold test and overall physical appearance and that information will be provided to them.

“It’s the Department’s job to protect the farmer,” said Dr. Spell. “We just want to ensure that Mississippi farmers are purchasing quality seed. D&PL has been very cooperative and shares our interest of providing quality seed to farmers in Mississippi.”

Dismuke says the industry requires a minimum germ test rating of 60 percent and the disclosure of that germ test rating before a product can be sold, but their standards are higher than those required with the overwhelming majority being near, at or even above 80 percent.

McCarty says growers should pay more attention to the labels on the bags of seeds they buy and attention to the conditions of storage of the bags prior to planting.

Because the MDAC tests thousands of bags of seed from all the companies that do business within Mississippi each year, the chances of a bag with poor quality seed getting into the distribution chain aren’t very high. McCarty says the safeguards and testing procedures are in place to protect that seed.

“However, a bag can test high in late winter, but if it’s stored in a place with high humidity and isn’t kept cool and dry, the quality can deteriorate in a hurry. If that place of storage is on the farm, then the producer has to take his share of the responsibility for poor quality seed,” says McCarty.

“Other factors that can adversely affect seed quality are to plant the seed too early and into cold ground, and, let me stress this point; growers are not planting enough seed,” says McCarty. As growers attempt to save money on technology fees, they also tend to want to plant at lower sending rates.

‘The result is a skimpy stand that can’t overcome early-season adverse conditions such as too much or too little rain,” says McCarty.

For more information on seed quality or testing, contact Tagert at 662-325-3391 or click on the MDAC Web site at www.mdac.state.ms.us, or DP&L’s site at www.deltaandpine.com. Eva Ann Dorris is a free lance journalist from Pontotoc, Miss., and a frequent contributor to Delta Farm Press. She can be reached at 662-419-9176 or e-mail: eadorris@aol.com.