Manager's Corner Archives

Commentary by Mike Stahr, ISU Seed Lab Manager - August 2019

As we move into our fall and winter testing season I would like to touch on a couple of items:

Submitting Seeds for Cover Crops

Please note the information about cover crop seeds under the picture of the guy who is next to a tray of corn on the lower part of the Seed Lab home page.  If you will be planting seeds that you raised on your own land, then NRCS requires that a (mechanical) Purity Test and Germination Test.  If you will be selling that seed to your neighbor, you must have a noxious weed exam done in addition to the purity and germination tests.  Testing can be done at the Iowa State University Seed Lab or other nearby seed labs (South Dakota State, Illinois Crop, etc.).  A minimum of 75 grams (~3 ounces) of cereal seeds are needed for a purity & germ test; 500 grams (a little over a pound) are need for a noxious weed exam. 

How do I submit seeds and where do I send them?

How do oats, rye and wheat seed look so far?

It is very unusual for oat seeds to have problems with fungi and we don’t expect problems this year.  Wheat, rye and triticale are a different matter as these types of seeds grown in Iowa are prone to problems with fungi, primarily Fusarium.  Illinois Crop recently reported in its newsletter that there are   problems in Illinois this year with Fusarium and Iowa looks to be in a similar situation.  We haven’t received a lot of rye seed for testing so far, but that is changing as the phone is ringing off the hook with questions about cover crops.

Can anything be done with cereal seed that are of low quality because of Fusarium?

There are a couple of options, depending on the severity of the problem. (Dead seeds can’t be brought back!).  The first is conditioning (processing) the seeds.  Badly infected seeds tend to be lighter and thus an air screen cleaner or gravity table might help.  Alan Gaul (, 515-294-6826) is charge of the seed conditioning unit at the Seed Science Center.  He has many years of experience working with a wide range of species of seeds.  A second option is to apply seed treatment.  This isn’t always a readily available option for farmers as it isn’t likely that there is a seed company or other facility nearby that does custom treating.  The best bet might be to check with the local county extension office.  On the testing side of things, we can spread seeds further apart to reduce the chance of the fungi spreading in the germination test and we can increase the number of times we check the sample while it is germinating.  Depending on our workload we can custom treat the sample of seeds to give an indication if seed treatment will help.  Unfortunately, this isn’t a good option if a farmer doesn’t have a place to get seeds treated.

Whom do I contact at the ISU Seed Lab?

The cheery voice you hear when calling 515-294-6821 is likely to be Cherie Hill, but it could be Connie or Morgan.  To contact ISU Seed Lab Customer Care by e-mail:

Lab Manager Mike Stahr: (best way to contact me) or 515-294-6826

ISU Seed Lab website:

ISU Seed Science  Center website:

Manager’s Corner:   Dealing with Soybean Seed with Fungal Issues

December 2018

Dealing last summer with rye seeds that had issues with fungal infection by Fusarium spp. and low germination was a bit of a warning about potential corn and soybean seed quality this fall and winter.  The rains that occurred during the summer became more numerous in September and October, with rainy stretches lasting on & off for a week or more.  Corn seemed to “weather” the conditions very well, but soybeans are a different situation.  Apparently, soybean seed and grain that were harvested before the week-long rains were least affected by fungi.  However, soybeans that endured repeated periods of rain, fog and dry conditions for the most part have problems with Phomopsis (Diaporthe) and Fusarium species.

Phomopsis (Diaporthe) spp. produce overwintering bodies called pycnidia which contain spores (conidia).  The spores infect the stems and pods (pod and stem blight) and if field conditions are rainy and/or foggy, infection can spread to seeds inside the pods.  So far, standard germination tests using crepe cellulose paper (Versapak TM ) have had a range in results from 10% to 99% germination with many seed lots in the range of 50% - 70%.  If Phomopsis is mostly on seed coats then normally a sand germination test or paper towel test will strip the seed coat from the seed and help with the germination test result.  That is not the case this fall with sand and regular germination tests usually being within 5-10% of each other.  Fusarium spp. don’t produce pycnidia and is present superficially or within soybean seeds.  Sand has the advantage of separating seeds on trays of seeds, but Iowa State University Seed Lab staff have done a good job of recognizing when fungi spread from one seedling to another and that is compensated for.  An interesting tidbit about Phomopsis spp. is that it dies out during the hot, humid period of the accelerated aging (AA) test and so it isn’t unusual to have higher AA results than germination test result.


What can a seed company or farmer do to improve germination test scores and hopefully field emergence for seeds with these fungi?  During this testing season, seeds that were fungicide-treated have shown improvements in germination scores of up to 20%, with the most common improvement 10-15%.  At the ASTA CSS Seed Conference held earlier this month in Chicago there were reports of improvement up to 40%, but that seems to be a rare and unlikely increase.  The other alternative is to condition the seeds to remove seeds which are discolored (color sorter), misshapen (spiral separator) or light (gravity table).

The Seed Lab offers custom treating of seed samples to be tested which will give the sender a reasonable idea of likely improvement should the entire seed lot be treated.  For more information on seed conditioning e-mail Alan Gaul, seed conditioning specialist at the Seed Science Center or call 515-294-4011.  For more information on testing “moldy” seeds and possibly improving results of testing, contact Dr. Charles Block (seed pathologist) or Mike Stahr (Seed Lab manager) at 515-294-6826 or e-mail  The Seed Lab web page is available at

Options for Low Quality Soybean Seed Lots

October 2018

Seed producers and farmers in southern Iowa struggling through dry conditions this summer probably never dreamed they would be dealing with weeks of rain this fall.  If you live in the Midwest you are undoubtedly accustomed to swings in temperature and precipitation, but it is probably safe to assume you haven’t experienced a fall like this one. 

Iowa experienced a wet spring, followed by a dry July and a resurgence of rain in August and September. Wet conditions are conducive to fungi growth, especially in cereals and soybeans.  Farmers planning to plant rye seed they harvested as cover crops in their fields were likely shocked with warm germination test results required by NRCS and for farmers wishing to sell cereal seed to their neighbors.  In general, seeds looked good, but germination test results in the 40-70 percent range were not unusual.

New crop soybean seed has been arriving at the Iowa State University Seed Testing Laboratory and it looks like it could be a tough year for soybean seed quality.  Foggy, rainy weather this fall facilitated Phomopsis to spread from pods to seeds.  Wet weather encourages spores within overwintering structures known as pycnidia to germinate and move to seeds.  October’s wet weather with occasional dry periods will also likely lead to cracking of seed coats, increasing amounts of fungi, and possibly to pods shattering before or during combining. 

The best bet for producers is to have a warm germination test conducted on bin run seed.  Running this test will help producers know if seed quality has dropped and if there is a problem with fungi.  Although a fungal screen using blotters or agar plates conducted by a seed pathology lab is the most accurate way of identifying the presence of fungi and determining the level of infection, the germination test can also provide useful information.  

Based on the bin run results, conditioning seed can significantly improve quality.  According to Alan Gaul, seed conditioning specialist at the Iowa State University Seed Science Center, useful cleaning equipment for conditioning soybean seed include an air screen cleaner, spiral or belt separators, gravity table, and color sorter.  Although color sorters have gained wide acceptance, the most significant improvement will often come from increasing the air during post-aspiration, using a spiral separator or gravity table, and finishing with a color sorter.    

A viable option in most cases is to treat the seed. The effectiveness of treatment will depend on the severity of fungal damage.  Seed treatments have proven effective, but reach their limit when seeds are damaged to the point of no return.  Some seed labs custom treat seeds upon request.  When germs are unexpectedly low, it might save time and money for a seed company or farmer to have a lab treat seeds from a seed sample and then conduct another test.  If the producer treats the seed lot because of the success of the custom treating of the seed sample, then another germination test must be done on the finished product. If seed treatment isn’t an option due to seeds being organic, then germination results may be improved by planting in sand or in rolled paper towels rather than using creped cellulose paper (i.e. Versapak TM).  Seedlings growing in sand or towels have the advantage of friction removing seed coats.  Seed coats can have fungi present, while the seed itself does not.

The Iowa State University Seed Lab offers many services and educational experiences to help you maintain the best health in your seed. For more information on improving seed quality through conditioning, contact Alan Gaul at  For information on fungal infection of seeds or testing low quality seeds contact the Seed Lab at 515-294-6826 or

Contact Mike Stahr at if you have questions about seed testing. If you have questions about reporting or the status of submitted samples, contact ISU Seed Lab Customer Care specialist, Cherie Hill, at, or 515-294-6826.

—Mike Stahr, ISU Seed Lab Manager


There’s Never a Dull Moment at the ISU Seed Science Center!

May 2018

May is normally a transition month at the Iowa State Seed Laboratory —when the volume of samples for corn and soybean testing tapers off, and the focus shifts more to samples for flower and vegetable seed testing. That is less true, however, for our Seed Health Testing Laboratory, as a significant portion of phytosanitary testing involves vegetable seed year-round. In May of 2018, we not only completed an extremely successful Seed Analyst Short Course, but we also witnessed an influx of many more samples than normal of corn and soybeans for testing. This could be a result, in part, of delayed corn planting progress in the Midwest, or of sweeping changes in the seed industry as giants like Dow, DuPont, Syngenta, Bayer, and others reposition themselves.

2018 Seed Analyst Short Course Receives High Marks

Once again this year, we were pleased to find reviews from our Seed Analyst Short Course participants extremely positive. Seventeen individuals participated each week of the 2018 Seed Analyst Short Course. Attendees of Germination Week had the opportunity to evaluate seedlings from 16 species of seeds, and conduct tetrazolium testing on four species. Purity Week focused on methods to distinguish the many seed species that analysts may potentially encounter when conducting mechanical purity tests or noxious weed exams. Hands-on work was also offered. On Friday of both weeks, a respective Association of Official Seed Analysts (AOSA) and Society of Commercial Seed Technologists (SCST) consolidated exam was given to participants. Written and practical components of the exams reflect the knowledge and abilities of each analyst, and eventually lead to certification as an RST (Registered Seed Technologist) or a CSA (Certified Seed Analyst).
Plans for our mid-August Tetrazolium Workshop are already underway. A few seats still remain open, so feel free to visit our registration page and consider taking part in it and other summer Seed Conditioning Workshops!

Summer Seed Industry Meetings

As you may already be aware, the AOSA/SCST Annual Meeting and Tradeshow will be held in Raleigh, North Carolina, June 1-8 this year. A major activity that takes place during the Annual Meeting is the review of proposals for approval to add to the AOSA Rules for Testing Seeds, or to update information already included in it. During the Annual Meeting, joint committee meetings are held on just about every seed-testing topic that you can imagine, including: germination, purity, cultivar purity, genetic technology, tetrazolium, statistics, and more. As a result, these Annual Meetings can be anything but relaxing, as committee and other meetings are conducted from first thing in the morning to late each evening.
June and July of 2018 will be busy months for seed industry meetings. The International Seed Testing Association (ISTA) Annual Meeting will take place in Sopporo, Japan, on June 11-14. The American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) will hold its annual Policy and Leadership Development Conference July 9-13 in Washington, D.C.; the Association of Seed Certifying Agencies (AOSCA) will meet in Atlanta June 24-27; and the Association of American Seed Control Officials (AASCO) will hold their 2018 Annual Meeting in Des Moines, July 15-19.

ISU Seed Lab Upgrades ISO Accreditation, Analysts Build Skills/Complete Certification

This spring the Iowa State University (ISU) Seed Lab upgraded its International Organization for Standardization (ISO) Quality Management System accreditation from ISO 9001:2008 to 9001:2015. Efforts are underway to become a USDA Accredited Seed Lab (ASL) certified with ISO 17025 in the near future. The possibility of becoming a member lab of ISTA is also being explored.

ISU Seed Lab testing staff continue to hone their seed testing knowledge and skills throughout the year. During the winter, they participated in numerous referees and also in proficiency testing. Three of our Germination Lab staff members will head west in July for a two-day workshop presented by the Idaho Seed Analyst Association. In addition, others have, or will, complete certification testing in either germination or genetic technology.

The ISU Seed Lab has tested for more than 300 species of seed, and currently tests well over 120 species each year. The Seed Health Lab conducts tests to detect more than 300 pathogens.

Look for the ISU Seed Lab Booth at These Upcoming Seed Conferences!

At the ISU Seed Lab, you are more than an account number, you are family! So be sure to look for the ISU Seed Lab booth and come visit us at the following upcoming seed conferences! Dry Bean Convention, Bonita Springs, FL, July 21-24; Western Seed Conference/ASTA Farm & Lawn Seed Conference, Kansas City, MO, Oct. 30 – Nov. 2; ASTA CSS Seed Conference, Chicago, IL, Dec. 3-6; Southern Seed Conference, Jan. 2019; Independent Professional Seed Conference January 7-10, Indian Wells, California; and the ASTA Vegetable & Flower Conference, Orlando, FL, February 1-5, 2019.

—Mike Stahr, Manager

Dispelling Misconceptions about the ISU Seed Lab | A Leader in Seed Health Testing | Testing is Our Number One Priority

November 2017 

It’s funny how misconceptions can have so much impact on our decision-making process.  For instance, when driving across the country, when you think about flat, tedious landscapes, what comes to mind?  Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa?  And when you envision a seed lab testing only a few species of seeds— predominately corn and soybeans—does the ISU Seed Lab come to mind because it is located in the middle of a vast expanse of corn and soybean fields?  Well, as many of you are aware, Iowa is anything but flat—just ask anyone who rides a bike in RAGBRAI!  And, in an average year analysts at the ISU Seed Lab test more than 100 different species of seeds. In fact, the ISU Seed Lab has tested for more than 300 species of seeds.

I guess you could say that Iowa State University Seed Lab is both a “typical” AOSA lab, and a “far from a typical” AOSA lab. ISU Seed Lab is a typical seed lab in that it integrates seed testing with a large amount of student training.  However, ISU isn’t a typical seed lab because the Seed Science Center spends each summer designing and hosting conditioning workshops where both entry-level and seasoned industry professionals can receive hands-on, in-depth instruction on the latest in industry equipment. In addition, the ISU Seed Lab conducts a Seed Analyst Short Course on purity and germination each spring and a Seed Quality Workshop each August.  And finally, ISU Seed Lab isn't a typical seed lab, because we offer custom workshops for seed companies and international visitors, as well as a biennial SCST Genetic Testing Super Workshop—something other labs don't offer.

A Leader in Seed Health Testing

Industry-wide it is no secret that the ISU Seed Science Center houses one of the top seed health testing labs in the world. In fact, you would be hard pressed to mention a seed-borne fungus, bacteria, or virus that the ISU Seed Lab has not tested for. Additionally, our Iowa (tray) cold test has been an industry standard for testing corn for more than 40 years.  But are you aware that this two-week test is also available as a one-week test?  Many seed companies and researchers choose the Iowa cold test for seed safety testing and custom testing because it is certified to confirm that corn and soybean seed samples meet trait provider standards for all biotech traits, as well as undesired traits. Actually, the more than 100 species tested each year include a significant number of native species.

Testing is Our Number One Priority

When you test with the ISU Seed Lab, you can rest assured that testing seeds is always our number one priority.  Our goal is to provide timely and accurate results to all of our customers while also offering the highest level of customer service available in the industry.

To learn more about what the ISU Seed Lab can do for your company, visit our websites at and, or contact Customer Care Lead Cherie Hill (515-294-6826 or or me, Mike Stahr, at ( or 515-294-0117).  We also plan to attend the following conferences, where we’d love to have you stop by to discuss why testing with ISU Seed Lab is always your best option! American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) CSS Seed Conference, Chicago, December 4-8; Independent Professional Seed Association (IPSA) Seed Conference Indianapolis, Jan 8-10; and ASTA Vegetable & Flower Seed Conference, San Diego, Jan 27-30. We look forward to seeing you there!

—Mike Stahr, ISU Seed Lab Manager

ISU Seed Analyst Workshops | Palmer Amaranth Concerns | AOSA/SCST/ISTA 2017 Meeting in Denver

May 25, 2017

A great deal has occurred since writing my last Manager’s Corner column in February. My staff and I have completed the two weeks of ISU Seed Analyst Short Course training, an American Seed Trade Association (ASTA)-sponsored summit on Palmer amaranth was held recently in Des Moines, and the joint Association of Official Seed Analysts (AOSA), Society of Commercial Seed Technologists (SCST), and International Seed Testing Association (ISTA) meeting in Denver is fast approaching.

2017 Germination and Purity Short Course Training A Success

Our ISU Seed Analyst Short Courses, held the first two weeks of May (Germination the first week, and Purity the second), once again included many hands-on activities and offered exposure to many species of seed and several testing methods. During Germination week, we spent a full day on tetrazolium (TZ) testing. Participants prepared and evaluated a number of species using TZ methods.  Purity week also offered hands-on experiences on a wide range of seed species and numerous helpful hints for seed identification. A special highlight of Purity week this year was the inclusion of two exceptional webinars provided by Jennifer Neudorf of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Jennifer discussed ways to differentiate species of grass seed and tips for separating Brassicas. As always, both weeks of the short course concluded with their respective AOSA and SCST consolidated exams (germination and purity). The Iowa State University Seed Lab is proud to be one of only a few locations in the U.S. offering the AOSA and SCST tests each year.

Industry Meets to Discuss Palmer Amaranth Concerns

Seed industry professionals and government officials recently convened in Des Moines to discuss issues relating to the prevention of the further spread of Palmer amaranth in the U.S. In the span of a little more than a year, the map of Palmer amaranth infestation in Iowa, which initially included one county in the southern part of the state, and one county in the northwest area of the state, transformed into a virtual checkerboard of affected counties. There continues to be disagreement on how this staggering progression took place. A focus on testing to identify high purity seed lots will undoubtedly slow the spread of Palmer amaranth. It is common knowledge that Palmer seeds are visually indistinguishable from several other Amaranth species.  As a result, the only viable options at this time are a grow-out of suspected seeds or a DNA test. Although a DNA test is a highly accurate option, this high-tech solution comes with a significant cost: $100 per seed (with price breaks at 28 and 49 seeds tested). It will be interesting to see how this situation plays out.

AOSA/SCST/ISTA Meeting in Denver a Unique Opportunity for Seed Professionals

A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for seed industry professionals to take part in a global meeting of the minds will take place June 16-23, 2017, in Denver. The joint AOSA/SCST/ISTA meeting will kick-off June 16-18 with four workshops preceding the meeting followed by numerous symposiums, research presentations, and committee meetings following on June 19-22. The event will conclude with a June 23 day-long tour of local seed-related points of interest: Applewood Seed Company, Eurofins STA Lab, and the National Lab for Genetic Resources Preservation. Throughout the week, a number of AOSA, SCST, and ISTA committees will hold joint meetings. As a result, attendees from around the world will have an opportunity to take part in Rule-proposal discussions and other dialogues relating to issues affecting all three organizations. In fact, 28 AOSA Rule change proposals are scheduled for consideration in Denver, on issues ranging from adding native seed species to the Rules, adding a procedure for working with super chaffy seed species to the Rules, to Rule changes reflecting advancements in seed counters. Both the ISU Seed Lab and the ISU Graduate Program in Seed Technology and Business will have a booth at the AOSA/SCST/ISTA meeting in Denver. Be sure to take time out to stop in and visit with us!

For more information about the meeting, visit:

—Mike Stahr, ISU Seed Lab Manager

Palmer Amaranth |  2017 ISU Workshops and Short Courses | AOSA, SCST, ISTA Joint Conference | First Recipient of Lisa Shepherd Jenkins Scholarship Named

February 21, 2017

Challenges Involved in Identifying Palmer Amaranth

My August Manager’s Corner article was written during the early stages of news breaking on the discovery of Palmer Amaranth seed in Pollinator and other CRP fields. At that time, the seed industry seemed to be of the general belief that Palmer seeds could be distinguished from other pigweed seeds. Shortly thereafter, that line of thought was debunked. The problem then became, and remains: How does a seed lab classify pigweed seeds if, and when, they are found in a seed lot? At the time of this writing, Palmer Amaranth is not considered a noxious weed seed, nor a noxious weed in Iowa. That will likely change soon. However, until recently, even in states where Palmer seeds are deemed noxious, pigweed seeds found in a sample would have to be classified as noxious, or as common weeds (because they can’t be separated by species). A DNA test currently on the market that has shown to be effective in separating Palmer Amaranth seeds from other pigweed seeds is offered by the California State Testing Lab and Eurofins BDI. Soon other labs will be able to administer this test. Additionally, another method may soon be available from a lab in Colorado. Although it is critical to identify seed lots containing Palmer Amaranth, and there is a considerable amount of money at stake for farmers and seed producers, the cost of such DNA tests per seed/seeds may be prohibitive. My advice, if it is an option, is that producers ask to view their seed analysis report, as all weed seeds found during a mechanical purity test are listed on the report (rather than being listed as a percentage on the label).

2017 ISU Workshops and Short Courses

The Iowa State University Seed Lab will once again offer the Seed Analyst Short Course (Purity week May 8-11, and Germination week May 1-4) and the Corn & Soybean Seed Quality Workshop (August 15-17). On Friday of each week of the short course the AOSA/SCST consolidated exam will be offered (Germination May 5, Purity May 12). Participants must sign up at and qualify to be eligible to take the exams. During each short course in-depth information will be provided by speakers. In addition, participants will receive handouts, will be able to take part in hands-on activities, and will have opportunities for networking. The seed quality workshop allows participants to conduct a variety of tests available for both corn and soybeans.

For more information about these events visit:

AOSA, SCST, ISTA Joint Conference Offers Unique Opportunity

In Denver this June there will be a rare opportunity – a joint meeting between the AOSA (official--public--seed analysts), the SCST (commercial technologists and official analysts), and the ISTA (international lab personnel). The conference will be held June 19-22, 2017, with workshops offered the week prior. Participants will not only be able to attend workshops, symposiums, and committee meetings on many areas of seed analysis, but will also have the opportunity to network with people from around the world. The website for the conference can be found at

Conference workshops will focus on native seeds, flower seeds, seed testing tolerances, and application of statistics. On June 23, tours to the National Seed Preservation/storage lab, Applewood Seed Company, and to the Eurofins STA lab will be made available.

Recipient of First Lisa Shepherd Jenkins Scholarship Announced 

The first recipient of the Lisa Shepherd Jenkins Memorial Scholarship was announced February 15 during the 2017 Iowa Seed Association Scholarship recognition. The event was held in during the Agribusiness Showcase & Conference held at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines. Shepherd Jenkins, who passed away in July 2015, served as Seed Health Testing Coordinator for the Seed Science Center and was Director of the Administrative Unit of the National Seed Health System.  She headed one of the most active phytosanitary seed testing programs in the country. Lisa had a great love for many things to do with seeds and the people who test and sell them. For more information about the scholarship recipient visit:

—Mike Stahr, ISU Seed Lab Manager 

Testing Seed for Cover Crops

August 9, 2016

Currently, using cover crops and putting land into conservation reserve (specifically through the new Pollinator Program) is very popular. However, The Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS) requires that seed used as a cover crop (typically rye or oat seeds) be sent to a seed lab for a warm (standard) germination test and a purity test. The Pure Live Seed (PLS) percentage will be calculated and noxious weeds will be checked for. Seed lots being tested will not be certified—as occurs in a crop improvement lab that certifies seeds as to variety, but rather the lab tests them to ensure to NRCS that producers are using quality seeds for cover crops. If seeds are to be sold to other producers, a mechanical purity test, noxious weed exam, and a germination test must be conducted. If primary noxious weed seeds are present in a sample, then the seed lot cannot be sold until the noxious weeds are removed through seed conditioning

If you have a cover crop seed lot that needs to be tested, feel free to send them to the Iowa State University Seed Lab for evaluation. For information on how to submit a sample to the ISU Seed Lab, visit the “Services” page of the Seed Lab website  and select “Submitting Samples, Forms, E-Transfer (”  Alternatively, you can call our customer service representative Cherie Hill at 515-295-6826 or e-mail

For more information about requirements for farmers wishing to sell seed, read the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship's (IDALS) "Selling Agricultural Seed in IowaIncluding Selling Direct From the Farm Permit & Labeling Requirements document, or contact (

Seed Testing is a Year-Round Occurrence at ISU Seed Lab

Although Iowans and individuals from other states tend to think of fall as the end of the growing season, in reality seed testing is a year-round occurrence. In mid-summer oats are harvested, and testing them requires that a pre-chill be conducted to force the seeds out of their dormancy. Mother Nature wisely prevents many types of seeds from sprouting until after they experience cold temperatures followed by extended periods of warmer temperatures. Seed corn is typically harvested in September, and soybeans in September or October. However, because the ISU Seed Lab receives several hundred species of seeds from across the U.S. and around the world, seed testing in the ISU Seed Lab happens year round. In fact, we continually conduct more than 50 types of tests on flowers, vegetables, grasses, forages, and other species.  The tests range from tests for mechanical purity, to germination & vigor, to phytosanitary evaluations, to tests that verify desired and undesired presence of biotech traits.

Putting Our Customers First

Even though the Iowa State University Seed Lab is one of the largest public seed labs in the world, our focus is on treating seed companies, researchers, farmers, and others as cordially as if we are neighbors talking across the back fence. We offer tests that are essential to the industry—tests that may not be offered elsewhere—while making it a priority that your results are accurate and received in a timely manner.

At the ISU Seed Lab we love what we do. That is reflected by our customers, who continually rate our services as among the best in the industry. As a seed analyst with more than 37 years of experience in seed testing, I look forward to learning something new each day. And, I am proud to say that at the ISU Seed Lab, we carry that enthusiasm forward into serving in leadership positions for such organizations as the AOSA, SCST, and ISTA.

ASTA’s motto for many years has been “First the Seed.” At the ISU Seed Lab you’ll find that we are passionate about seeds—and as always, we will continue to put you, our customer, first. 


Workshops and Certification

February 22, 2016

Uniformity is of great significance to individuals involved in the marketing of seeds. Consistent and accurate seed testing results provide a solid foundation for the sale of quality seeds between seed companies, as well as from companies to farmers and other end-users. However, lately seed companies and brokers have expressed concern that testing results may differ from testing lab to testing lab—or even within a testing lab.  In response to these concerns, the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA), the Association of Official Seed Analysts (AOSA), and the Society of Commercial Seed Technologists (SCST) have worked to develop strategies to ensure uniformity in seed testing. These strategies include the certification and proficiency testing of seed analysts, and the provision of increased training opportunities.

This year the Iowa State University Seed Science Center hosted the SCST Genetic Testing Super Workshop at Ames on February 8-12.  The Super Workshop consisted of five individual workshops on  the topics of: Molecular Biology, PCR, Immunoassay (ELISA and lateral flow strips), Herbicide Bioassay, and Electrophoresis.  Participants traveled from across the U.S. to take part in this valuable educational program.  In addition to the Super Workshop, the Seed Science Center offers many training opportunities, including the Seed Analyst Short Course, the Corn and Soybean Seed Quality Workshop, and a summer-long schedule of seed conditioning workshops.  This year’s Seed Analyst Short Course will be held on April 18-21 (Purity) and April 25-28 (Germination).  As in past years, the seed analysis exam will be offered on Friday of each week.  What is fairly new, however, is that the purity and the germination exams  are consolidated— AOSA and SCST  jointly offers them.  While Iowa State has offered the AOSA exams for many years, the consolidated exam has only been offered recently .

The Seed Analyst Short Course is designed for beginners, those studying to take AOSA CSA exams or SCST RST exams (same exams – Purity and  Germination – different title awarded on successful completion) and others interested in obtaining well-rounded training in seed analysis.  One-on-one attention is offered to each participant; in fact, we truly believe that the only “dumb” question is the one that wasn’t asked! To register for one or both weeks of the Seed Analyst Short Course, visit our Training page. For additional information on the exams, and to access the application forms necessary for taking the exams, visit the AOSA website at ( or the SCST website at (

There aren’t many seed  testing-related  short courses or workshops offered annually in the United States. Past workshops have been located at venues such as the Federal Lab in North Carolina, or at Mississippi State, Colorado State, Oregon State, and the Idaho Seed Analysts Association. Therefore, we hope you’ll consider joining us at Iowa State University Seed Lab where our short courses are recognized for their wide range of species information, training topics, and friendly instructors.  For more information about upcoming ISU training opportunities, including tentative agendas, visit our Training section or contact Seed Lab Manager Mike Stahr  (, 515-294-0117) for more information.