Saving Wheat Seed

By Ron Meyer – Gold Plains Area Agronomy Extension Agent

Throughout the ages, farmers have planted seed saved from their previous wheat crop. When making seed wheat decisions, they selected the best quality seed from the highest yielding varieties. Choosing wheat varieties based on yield and quality continues, but now include a few changes.

With the advent of hybrid crops like corn, farmers discovered that they did not get the advantage of hybrid vigor when they saved their seed, the ensuing crop was not uniform, and yields were poor. It was quickly learned they needed to buy new seed each year of these hybrid crops to maximize yields. This annual purchase of hybrid seed commercialized the corn seed business and resulted in enormous investment into research and development for improved corn hybrids. Consequently, technology in corn has benefitted farmers with increased yield potentials. But what about a non-hybrid crop like wheat?

With the passage of the US Plant Variety Protection Act in 1970, Congress encouraged private investment into development of new plant varieties, including wheat. That investment is now paying off in the form of new and improved wheat genetics. However, an important component of this act was the farmer’s right so save seed from some varieties. Section 113 of the act states, “It shall not infringe any right hereunder for a person to save seed produced by the person from seed obtained, or descended from seed obtained, by authority of the owner of the variety for seeding purposes and use such saved seed in the production of a crop for use on the farm …”

Simply stated, if a farmer purchases ordinary Certified wheat seed that is Plant Variety Protected, they may keep seed grown from that variety for planting on their farm. However, keep in mind that there are exceptions to this law, which is Certified Seed Only varieties. When planting Certified Seed Only varieties, new wheat seed must be purchased yearly.

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