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June 28, 2004

Seed commissioner begins testing seed count claims

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – This spring the Office of the Indiana State Chemist and Seed Commissioner began testing seed corn and soybeans for accuracy of seed count labeling, and the results surprised a few people.

Seed count test labeling
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"We have determined that seed count labeling claims are very accurate," said Larry Nees a seed administrator in the state chemist's office. "Our violations were very low. In fact, soybeans were 2.75 percent above label claim and corn was 0.9 percent above label claim on the average. That's exceptional performance by the companies in terms of how they're labeling their products."

The state chemist's lab, based at Purdue University, started sampling seed from companies marketing in the state after receiving allegations of inaccurate seed count labeling last year.

"A farmer had been doing some of his own testing on the seed and found that they were short 10 to 15 percent on label claim," Nees said.

The farmer was right, there were labeling errors last year. "We did find that there were some errors, and the deficiencies were in the 9 to 10 percent range."

The farmer and the seed company worked out the problem, but a state legislator was already involved.

"The farmer had spoken to one of his local state legislators and so we got a call asking for some more attention on those kinds of label claims," Nees said. "So this was our first big year to start looking throughout the industry."

This season the lab tested 124 samples of corn from 56 different companies and 174 samples of soybeans from 63 different companies marketing in Indiana. More than 95 percent of the corn samples and 99.4 percent of the bean samples passed.

As required by the Association of Official Seed Analysts, the organization that determines testing protocols for seed, the lab uses a mechanical seed counter to test the samples. Tolerances for seed corn are 2 percent, while soybeans have a 4 percent tolerance. Nees said soybeans are allowed more leeway because the seeds are less uniform and, therefore, easier to miscount.

Seed count labeling guarantees have been an optional thing for years in the United States and Indiana in particular, and that's the reason this is the first year the claims have been monitored, Nees said.

"It's not a required labeling component, so we've never put too much enforcement into looking at those types of claims," he said. "Nevertheless, it does come under the jurisdiction of the seed law because whatever is on the label must be a truthful statement."

Even if it's not required, the seed count claim does play into a farmer's purchasing decision.

The average bag of seed corn contains 80,000 kernels, and farmers use that figure, said Bob Nielsen, a Purdue Extension corn specialist.

"Seed count claims help producers decide how many total bags of seed they're going to buy for the acres they're going to plant," Nielsen said.

Nees said he believes farmers don't have anything to worry about regarding the seed counts.

"I don't think there should be much of a concern throughout the farming public that the seed they're buying may not be properly labeled," he said. "I think from what we've seen, this season especially, we've proven that the seed is very accurately labeled regarding seed count claims."

Writer: Kay Hagen, (765) 494-6682, kjh@purdue.edu

Sources: Larry Nees, (765) 494-1557, neesl@purdue.edu

Bob Nielsen, (765) 494-4802, rnielsen@purdue.edu

Related Web sites:

KingCorn.org

Indiana Seed Law

PHOTO CAPTION:
The Office of the Indiana State Chemist and Seed Commissioner conducted testing on seed count label claims after a farmer in Indiana alleged that his seed wasn't living up to expectations. (Purdue News Service photo/Mike Kerper)

A publication-quality photo is available.

Ag Communications: (765) 494-2722; Beth Forbes, forbes@purdue.edu
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