Skip to main content Accessibility help

Hidden viability risks in the use of farm-saved small-grain seed

  • P. PELTONEN-SAINIO (a1), A. RAJALA (a1) and L. JAUHIAINEN (a1)


Agriculture must provide sustainable food security and economic development to meet future challenges; new cultivars and the use of quality seed will be key components of this. The use of farm-saved seed may increase due to imbalances between income and expenditure associated with farming. The present study characterized the quality of commonly used, and thereby easily available, farm-saved seed in Finland. Farmers provided 657 seed lot samples of spring barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) and spring wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) that they intended to use for sowing. Germination, seed weight, seedling elongation and within-seed-lot variability were analysed. Information was available on region, number of seed generations and cultivar. The specific aims were to identify how many generations of farm-saved seed are generally used by farmers, whether there is any safe generation threshold and the variability of quality of the seed lots. It was found that 0·80–0·84 of barley seed lots exceeded the 0·85 minimum germination requirement for certified seed, but only 0·60 of wheat. The risk of poor establishment was higher in wheat if the seed was not tested: 0·13 of wheat seed lots had germination of ⩽0·65 and 0·06 of ⩽0·50, while for barley the proportions with inadequate germination were 0·03–0·05. At most, >0·30 abnormal seedlings were recorded for barley and >0·50 for wheat. Variation in seed size and seedling length within seed lots was important, and increase in the latter was associated with reduced germination. In combination with up to 0·14 lethal fungus-infected seed, this emphasizes the need for seed upgrading measures. No safe threshold for farm-saved seed generations was determined.


Corresponding author

*To whom all correspondence should be addressed. Email:


Hide All
Benjamin, L. R. (1990). Variation in time of seedling emergence within populations: a feature that determines individual growth and development. Advances in Agronomy 44, 125.
Brisson, N., Gate, P., Gouache, D., Charmet, G., Oury, F.-X. & Huard, F. (2010). Why are wheat yields stagnated in Europe? A comprehensive data analysis for France. Field Crops Research 119, 201212.
Ceddia, M. G. & Cerezo, E. R. (2008). A Descriptive Analysis of Conventional, Organic and GM Crop and Certified Seed Production in the EU. JRC Scientific and Technical Reports, EUR 23443 EN. Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities.
Chastain, T. G., Ward, K. J. & Wysocki, D. J. (1995). Stand establishment responses of soft white winter wheat to seedbed residue and seed size. Crop Science 35, 213218.
Coolbear, P. (1995). Mechanisms of seed deterioration. In Seed Quality: Basic Mechanisms and Agricultural Implications (Ed. Basra, A. S.), pp. 223277. Binghamton, NY: Food Products Press.
Finger, R. (2010). Evidence of slowing yield growth – The example of Swiss cereal yields. Food Policy 35, 175182.
Gan, Y., Stobbe, E. H. & Moes, J. (1992). Relative date of wheat seedling emergence and its impact on grain yield. Crop Science 32, 12751281.
Grilli, I., Bacci, E., Lombardi, T., Spano, C. & Floris, C. (1995). Natural ageing: Poly(A) polymerase in germinating embryos of Triticum durum wheat. Annals Botany 76, 1521.
Hurme, T., Jauhiainen, L. & Öfvesten, J. (2009). Estimating location and variability parameters from classified potato tuber size data. In Conference Book NBBC09: 2nd Nordic-Baltic Biometric Conference, 10–12 June 2009, Tartu, Estonia (Ed. Fischer, K.), p. 47. (Abstract). Washington, DC: IBS.
Jittanit, W., Srzednicki, G. & Driscoll, R. (2010). Corn, rice, and wheat seed drying by two-stage concept. Drying Technology 28, 807815.
Khah, E. M., Roberts, E. H. & Ellis, R. H. (1989). Effects of seed ageing on growth and yield of spring wheat at different plant-population densities. Field Crops Research 20, 175190.
Nagel, M. & Börner, A. (2010). The longevity of crop seeds stored under ambient conditions. Seed Science Research 20, 112.
Naylor, R. E. L. (1993). The effect of parent plant nutrition on seed size, viability and vigour and on germination of wheat and triticale at different temperatures. Annals of Applied Biology 123, 379390.
Naylor, R. E. L. (2003). Germination of seed lots of Italian ryegrass (Lolium multiflorum Lam.) after extended natural ageing in cool storage. Seed Science and Technology 31, 177185.
Naylor, R. E. L. & Gurmu, M. (1990). Seed vigour and water relations in wheat. Annals of Applied Biology 117, 441450.
Niedzielski, M., Walters, C., Luczak, W., Hill, L. M., Wheeler, L. J. & Puchalski, J. (2009). Assessment of variation in seed longevity within rye, wheat and the intergeneric hybrid triticale. Seed Science Research 19, 213224.
Nonogaki, H., Bassel, G. W. & Bewley, J. D. (2010). Germination – still a mystery. Plant Science 179, 574581.
Peltonen-Sainio, P., Jauhiainen, L. & Laurila, I. P. (2009 a). Cereal yield trends in northern European conditions: Changes in yield potential and its realisation. Field Crops Research 110, 8590.
Peltonen-Sainio, P., Jauhiainen, L. & Hakala, K. (2009 b). Are there indications of climate change induced increases in variability of major field crops in the northernmost European conditions? Agricultural and Food Science 18, 206222.
Peltonen-Sainio, P., Jauhiainen, L. & Hakala, K. (2011). Crop responses to temperature and precipitation according to long-term multi-location trials at high-latitude conditions. Journal of Agricultural Science, Cambridge 149, 4962.
Peltonen-Sainio, P., Kangas, A., Salo, Y. & Jauhiainen, L. (2007). Grain number dominates grain weight in temperate cereal yield determination: evidence basing on 30 years’ multi-location trials. Field Crops Research 100, 179188.
Peltonen-Sainio, P., Rajala, A., Känkänen, H. & Hakala, K. (2009 c). Improving farming systems in northern European conditions. In Crop Physiology: Applications for Genetic Improvement and Agronomy (Eds Sadras, V. O. & Calderini, D. F.), pp. 7197. Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Elsevier.
Rajjou, L. & Debeaujon, I. (2008). Seed longevity: Survival and maintenance of high germination ability of dry seeds. Comptes Rendus Biologies 331, 796805.
Rajala, A., Hakala, K., Mäkelä, P. & Peltonen-Sainio, P. (2011). Drought effect on grain number and grain weight at spike and spikelet level in six-row spring barley. Journal of Agronomy and Crop Science 197, 103112.
Rajala, A. & Peltonen-Sainio, P. (2000). Manipulating yield potential in cereals by plant growth regulators. In Growth Regulators in Crop Production (Ed. Basra, A. S.), pp. 2770. Binghamton, NY: Food Products Press.
Ruiz, M., Martin, I. & De La Cuadra, C. (1999). Cereal seed viability after 10 years of storage in active and base germplasm collections. Field Crops Research 64, 229236.
SAS (2004). User's Guide. Cary, NC: SAS Institute.
Shephard, H. L., Naylor, R. E. L. & Stuchbury, T. (1996). The influence of seed maturity at harvest and drying method on the embryo, alpha-amylase activity and seed vigour in sorghum (Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench). Seed Science and Technology 24, 245259.
Stastny, J. & Pazderu, K. (2008). Evaluation of winter wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) seed quality and seed quality stability in relation to varieties and environmental conditions. Journal of Agrobiology 25, 153161.
Wilson, D. O. Jr. (1995). The storage of orthodox seeds. In Seed Quality: Basic Mechanisms and Agricultural Implications (Ed. Basra, A. S.), pp. 173207. Binghamton, NY: Food Products Press.

Hidden viability risks in the use of farm-saved small-grain seed

  • P. PELTONEN-SAINIO (a1), A. RAJALA (a1) and L. JAUHIAINEN (a1)


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed