Genetic Technologies Limited

Seed Production

Maximising quality and performance

Research shows that the highest maize yields come from uniform stands of plants which emerge at the same time and grow to produce even plants. Three factors interact during germination and emergence and together determine how well a maize crop establishes. These are seed quality, hybrid genetics and the growing environment.

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While it is possible to influence some environmental factors (e.g., soil compaction and planting date) others are virtually impossible to control. In New Zealand, spring growing conditions can be challenging with fluctuating temperatures and saturated soils. For the past three seasons, the quest for more uniform maize seed emergence has led to increased seed quality research to help characterise the performance of individual Pioneer hybrids under cold, wet emergence conditions. 

Seed quality and emergence

A number of tests can be used to quantify maize seed quality:

  • Pioneer Stress Test (PST) – a proprietary vigour test which imposes extreme chilling and anaerobic stresses, beyond that of the industry standard saturated cold test
  • Saturated cold test – seed is planted into saturated trays which are kept at 10°C for seven days
  • Cold germination test – seed is planted into trays which are kept at 10°C for seven days
  • Warm germination test – seed is planted into trays which are kept at 25°C for seven days.

While warm germination tests - carried out according to International Seed Testing Association (ISTA) protocols - provide a good indication of paddock germination under ideal conditions, the proprietary Pioneer Stress Test (PST):

  • Applies the highest level of vigour stress testing by providing a low temperature, waterlogged germination environment
  • Helps to further differentiate the quality of individual seed lines
  • Quantifies the impact of seed treatments on seed quality
  • Helps characterise the genetic stress tolerance of individual Pioneer maize hybrids

Laboratory seed quality testing

Pioneer maize hybrids (untreated and treated) were tested for physical purity, genetic purity, warm germination and through the Pioneer Stress Test (PST). This allowed us to characterise the relative vigour of individual hybrids under the toughest germination conditions.

Field stress emergence trials

In spring 2019, 24 hybrids were planted ultra-early at twice the normal planting depth (8.5 cm) into cold wet soils. There were a total of three Waikato and three lower North Island sites giving a total of 36 replicates per hybrid. The Pioneer Research Team monitored the sites and measured the rate of emergence as well as final plant stand count. Due to the challenging establishment conditions, the mean established plant population was 82% of the planting rate. There were, however, significant differences between hybrids with an established population range of 70-90%.

Pioneer stress emergence ratings

All Pioneer seed supplied to the market is expected to establish excellent plant stands if planted well and under normal germination conditions. Data collected from the laboratory seed quality testing exercise and the field stress emergence trials, referred to above, were used to develop the Pioneer Stress Emergence Ratings. These ratings indicate each hybrids ability to establish under challenging cold, wet growing conditions. The table below groups hybrids into three classes as a result of this research.

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Growers can be confident that every bag of Pioneer® brand maize seed they plant has been thoroughly tested in this extensive screening program and meets Pioneer’s industry-leading standards.