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University of Kentucky College of Agriculture

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Seed Tags: What They Reveal

The Kentucky Seed Law requires labeling of all agricultural seeds sold, offered or exposed for sale in bulk or a container of one pound or more (tobacco, one-twelfth ounce or more). This labeling is accomplished by attaching an analysis tag or label to each bag or container, stating the following: Kind and variety of crop seed in the container, name and address of the person labeling the seed, where the seed was grown, and a lot number or other lot identification.

The label must also show the quality of the seed as determined by analyzing and testing a sample taken from the lot. The analysis information on the tag or label includes the percentages of pure seed, crop seed, weed seed, inert matter, germination, and hard seed. The month and year the germination test was made and the name and number per pound of weed seed designated noxious in Kentucky must also be shown on the label.

An example of a seed tag is shown below and an explanation of each item on the tag follows. Click on an item to learn more about it or scroll through the entire document to see all:

KIND AND VARIETY The kind and variety of crop seed in the container, the proportion of which is indicated by the percentage of pure seed. For example, the illustrated analysis tag shows 99.40% pure seed which means that 99.40% of the contents of the container is Johnstone Tall Fescue; the remainder, 0.60%, is not and in actuality is worthless to the purchaser.

Determine the kind and variety of seed you wish to plant and make certain that you get what you want (read the tag). For maximum yields, only those varieties that are adapted, disease-resistant, and recommended for your locality should be planted. Seed stock of known origin and performance should be used in fulfilling this requirement. it is best to avoid planting mixtures unless you have a specific reason to do so. The best source of planting seed is one of the classes of certified seed, such as registered or certified. At any rate, planting seed stock should not be too far removed from the breeder. if you have questions as to what variety, and perhaps kind, you should plan to consult your county Extension agent for agriculture.

LOT IDENTIFICATION A number or other identification used primarily by the seedsman, seed dealer, and seed law administrators as a means of identification. The lot number is of no particular significance other than for identification and has no relationship to the quality of the seed as determined by reading the tag unless one has knowledge of the particular lot. It does facilitate tracing a lot of seed from the consumer to the producer. One should choose a simple system and not repeat the series of lot designations more often than every 3 years.
PURE SEED Percent of the KIND and VARIETY named on the tag or label. When two or more are present, each in excess of 5% of the whole, the kind and variety of each, together with their percentages, will appear on the tag or label. A HIGH percentage of pure seed is desirable.
INERT MATTER Seed-like structures from both crop and weed plants and other materials not seeds such as dirt, chaff, stones, stems, leaves, pieces of broken seeds one-half or less than the original size, nematode galls, and fungus bodies such as ergot. Amount present is expressed as a percentage. A LOW percentage is desirable.
CROP SEED Seeds of plants grown as crops, other than the kind and variety named on the tag. Presence is indicated in percentage of the whole. A LOW percentage, preferably none, is desirable.
WEED SEED Seeds, bulblets, or tubers of plants recognized as weeds by laws, official regulations, custom, or general usage. Their presence is expressed as a percentage. A LOW percentage, preferably none, is desirable. The Kentucky Seed Law prohibits the sale of seed containing more than 2% weed seed.
GERMINATION Percent of the PURE SEED that germinate and thus are capable of producing a normal plant under favorable field conditions. On the example analysis tag, the germination percentage of 94.00% means that 94% of the pure seed (in this case 99.40%) will germinate under favorable conditions and produce normal plants in the field. The values on the tag reveal that 93.44% (99.40% pure seed x 94% germination) of the total weight of this lot of seed has the potential of producing normal Johnstone Tall Fescue plants in the field. The planting value, pure-live seed (percent germination x percent pure seed) of any seed lot may be determined in this manner. The Kentucky Seed Law (Regulation) prohibits the sale of uncertified seed unless the sum of the germination and hard seed percentages is 60% or more. Standards of germination for certified seed are established by the Kentucky Seed Improvement Association.
HARD SEED Percent of the pure seed that are viable (alive) but do not germinate during the prescribed test period because they do not absorb water owing to impermeability of the seed coat. Most hard seeds eventually germinate and produce a plant. Hard seeds extend the germination over a longer period of time, which may or may not be an advantage. Hard seeds are undesirable when immediate germination is required. Conversely, presence of hard seeds would be desirable when an extended germination period will increase the chances of a stand. The sum of the germination and hard seed percentages is the total value of the seed lot with respect to plant-producing potential. Hard seed are common in the Legume family (clovers, beans, etc.), the Mallow family (okra, cotton), and certain tree and shrub seeds. The Kentucky Seed Law (Regulation) prohibits inclusion of hard seed in the germination percentage. Percentages of germination and hard seed must be reflected separately on the analysis tag.
DATE OF TEST The month and year the germination test was made. Generally, the germinating or plant-producing ability of seed declines with age. Consequently, one should hesitate to purchase or plant seed with an old test date. The test should be fairly recent; the more recent the better. The Kentucky Seed Law (Regulation) prohibits the sale of seed with a test date older than 9 months.
The state or county in which the seeds were grown (produced). If the place of origin is not known, this fact must be stated on the analysis tag. Origin is of particular importance in certain kinds of seeds since many varieties are adapted to the climatic conditions of only a particular area. These varieties will not perform; indeed, they may not survive outside their area of adaptation. Alfalfa, red clover, white clover, timothy, open-pollinated corn, and forest tree seeds are examples. Some varieties are susceptible to diseases that are prevalent in areas outside the area of production, thus restricting their distribution. Use of seed of non-adapted kinds, varieties or types of crops may result in severe economic loss and perhaps complete crop failure. Only those varieties that are recommended or proven in your area should be planted. If you have doubts, see your county Extension agent for agriculture.
NOXIOUS WEED SEEDS Seeds, bulblets, or tubers of plants that reproduce by seeds, bulblets, or tubers and/or spread by underground roots or stems. Such plants are detrimental to the agriculture of this state, are particularly objectionable in lawns and gardens, and are difficult to control by ordinary good cultural practices when established. Presence of noxious weed seed is indicated on the tag or label by name and number of weed seed per pound of seed. Seed containing no noxious weed seed is most desirable.

Seeds designated noxious in Kentucky and their permitted rate of occurrence per pound of agricultural seed are:

Common and Botanical
Number of Weed Seed Per Pound
Balloonvine (Cardiospermum halicacabum) NONE
Canada Thistle (Cirsium arvense) NONE
Johnsongrass (Sorghum halepense) and Sorghum almum and perennial rhizomatous derivatives of these NONE
Purple Moonflower (Ipomea turbinata) NONE
Quackgrass (Agropyron repens) NONE
Annual Bluegrass (Poa annua) 256
Buckhorn Plantain (Plantago lanceolata) 304
Corncockle (Agrostemma githago) 192
Dodder (Cuscuta spp.) 192
Giant Foxtail (Setaria faberii) 192
Ox-eye Daisy (Chrysanthemum leucanthemum) 256
Sorrell (Rumex acetosella) 256
Wild Onion and Wild Garlic (Allium spp.) 96
Maximum Total - Not to exceed above limitations 480
SEEDSMAN The name of the person, company, or corporation labeling the seed. The address must also be shown. The seedsman may or may not be the same as the person offering the seed for sale in retail or wholesale outlets. The person who exposes for sale, offers for sale, or sells seed is responsible for insuring that analysis tags or labels are attached to each bag or container offered for sale in his warehouse or place of business. It is also his responsibility to make certain the germination test date is current. The person, company, or corporation whose name appears on the tag or label is the source of the information on the tag or label and is responsible for any and all such information.

KNOW WHAT YOU SOWóRead The Tag Attached To The Bag!

T. Wayne Still, Retired
Revised by:
David T. Buckingham
Seed Regulatory Program