Seed Testing 101


Is a standardized test in Canada, which means all seed labs are using standard protocol to determine a germination number. Within the germination test there could be readings such as Normal, Abnormal and Dead. Normal indicates that the seed has germinated and looks ‘normal’ according to standardized training that all registered seed analysts undergo. Abnormal, on the other hand, indicates that the seed has attempted to germinate, but the emerging cotyledon does not fit the parameters that indicate a normal seed. Dead are seeds that did not germinate within the specified time limit.

Germination tests are typically done under warm moist conditions, which indicate how many seeds are predicted to grow and develop into plants under ideal conditions.


Vigour testing is a non-standardized test in Canada, in which each lab uses their own protocols that are intended to emulate growing conditions to give a more accurate indication of the seed’s performance under field conditions. Typically vigour testing is done at temperature much colder than germination tests. But remember, each lab creates a vigour test that, in their professional opinion, indicates field performance.

Many growers will use both a germination and vigour test to get a “best case scenario” and a “real case scenario” indication of seed performance.

Disease Screening

The benefits to test for seed borne pathogens/disease go far beyond abiding to a provincial edict. Disease screening will give a farmer an indication of the disease loading of disease on the seed. This can typically be correlated back to field infection of those diseases. This allows a grower not only to select the best fungicidal seed protectant, but to also plan an effective field scouting, and if necessary, foliar crop protection application. 

Disease screening is especially important for pulse crops, as diseases such as Ascochyta can be tested for on the seed. All of the Seed Smart Seed Lab partners have disease screening packages available.


The purity test is analysis that determines the composition of a seed lot. For Pedigreed Seed, it is a test required by the Canada Seeds Act to determine whether or not a lot makes a Canadian seed grade.

Purity testing is also useful information to the producer planting farm saved seed, as it can tell you if other crop kinds, fungal bodies or weeds exist in a seed lot. Many weed species can be extremely invasive and difficult and expensive to control once established.

1000 Kernel Weight

Once seed quality is established, getting a 1000 kernel weight helps to plan seeding rates, which tightly connect into precision agriculture and environmental sustainability.

Seed Lab Professionals

Highly trained, these experts have a lot of experience in seed health concerns, and typically have information regarding current seed health issues in any given area. 

Please visit the seed labs websites, and if available, sign up for their newsletters, or follow them on social media is a great way to be SEED SMART.