Weed seed in crp mixes

Pollinator mixes spread Palmer amaranth

TABLE OF TROUBLE: Eric Oseland, a graduate student at the MU Division of Plant Sciences, planted seeds from Conservation Reserve Program pollinator mixes last year. He found weeds like Palmer amaranth and waterhemp present in some mixes.

University of Missouri graduate student finding that some pollinator mixes are not free of weed seeds.

A warm yellow glow fills the greenhouse just off Ashland Road on the campus of the University of Missouri, Columbia. Eric Oseland leans over a table and inspects the leaves of a plant. “This is a Palmer amaranth,” he says. As his eyes span the entire length of the table, he adds, “They are all pigweeds, many waterhemp and Palmer.” It is hard for the MU graduate student to imagine what is before his eyes since he planted the seed from pollinator mixes with the tag reading “Weed seed: 0.00%.”

Oseland, who works under MU weed scientist Kevin Bradley, started his research project on the presence of weed seed in pollinator mixes last September. “We were hearing about Palmer amaranth showing up in Iowa CRP [Conservation Reserve Program] acres and decided to start looking at pollinator mixes as a potential source,” he explains. So Oseland, an Illinois native, took to the internet and started purchasing pollinator seed mixes from various companies and states.

He focused on 15 pollinator mixes. Along with fellow students, Oseland sifted through the mixes and identified the weed seeds. “You cannot tell just by looking at a seed what type of pigweed it is,” he notes, “you just know it is a pigweed seed.” To determine the species, Oseland planted the seeds.

What he found was that of the 15 mixes, nine had the presence of pigweed; and of those mixes, one has been confirmed to include Palmer amaranth.


WEED WATCH: There were many different species of weeds in pollinator mixes. MU researchers are most concerned with Palmer amaranth. Sowing this into CRP acres can create control problems for landowners if left unchecked — one plant can produce 1 million weed seeds.

Why worry about Palmer amaranth?
Palmer amaranth is the No. 1 weed to watch in the U.S., says Bradley.

One plant can produce up to 1 million seeds. Palmer amaranth seeds are about the size of a pinhead, not unlike some other native seeds found in common CRP mixes. These seeds can live in the soil for up to five years and remain viable.

In years past, weed seed entered farms and pastures through farm equipment, animal feed and animal bedding. MU research also found waterfowl could spread weed seed. Oseland says pollinator mixes add to the growing number of ways that Palmer amaranth spreads.

DIFFICULT TO DIFFERENTIATE: Shea Farrell, a graduate student at the MU Division of Plant Sciences, checks pollinator seed mixes for Palmer amaranth seed. These tiny weed seeds are often similar to native seeds. (Photo by Eric Oseland)

So far, Missouri has not seen quite the outbreak found in other states. To date, Bradley knows of just one site in Missouri that was likely planted to a contaminated pollinator mix. “We will look at it in the summer to see what comes up.”

Iowa was hit the hardest, as landowners planted more than 100,000 acres to native seed mixes. The state went from five counties reporting Palmer amaranth to 46 in just one year. States like Indiana, Ohio, Illinois and Minnesota also reported contaminated seed issues, but to a lesser degree.

“It is quite a situation going on,” Bradley says. “Most of the seed tags say ‘0.00% weed seed.'”

Monitoring seed rules
The Federal Seed Act requires that corn and soybean seed companies label each seed bag. CRP seed providers are also required to list the same type of information, including what species is in the bag, percent of pure seed, percent of weed seed present, percent of inert matter and germination rate.

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Still, as MU research found, some weeds are slipping through inspections. “The whole industry does not seem to be as tightly regulated,” Bradley says. “Not like corn, soybeans or wheat.” He says right now, there is more confidence in a seed tag on a corn or soybean bag than a pollinator mix.

NOT WEED-FREE: Not all tags are truthful. The MU Division of Plant Sciences is researching pollinator mixes as a source for spreading Palmer amaranth on CRP acres.

Missouri does have its own state seed inspection. The Missouri Department of Agriculture Bureau of Feed, Seed and Treated Timber enforces the laws and regulations to ensure that agricultural, vegetable and lawn seeds are labeled consistently and accurately. According to the state law, each agriculture or vegetable seed label must include a total percentage of germination, and also of purity, which includes the total of pure crop seed, other crop seed, inert material and weed seed.

“What we regulate in our office is the Missouri commercial seed law, and it does not cover flowers,” says Jacob Fleig, program coordinator with the Missouri Department of Agriculture Plant Industries Division. “Wildflower mixes are not covered under our law.”

What’s a farmer to do?
With little enforcement in federal law and lack of coverage by state seed laws, farmers are left to police their own pollinator mixes.

Jerry Kaiser, USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service plant materials specialist, says farmers can send mix samples in for testing. “If a seed test shows pigweed, then that pigweed species is grown out in a lab to identify which species of pigweed it is,” he says.

However, if the seed is already in the ground, this summer farmers will be able to spot Palmer amaranth. Palmer grows quickly over other pollinator species, Kaiser says — up to 3 inches per day.

If landowners spot only a few plants in fields, they may elect to remove them by hand, with a hoe. If a large number of weeds are present, Kaiser says farmers can use herbicides to spot-spray. “This will control the weed without destroying other pollinator plants.”

Whatever the method of choice to stop the spread of Palmer amaranth, control is critical. Bradley sums it up this way: “Any seed, feed or equipment coming onto your farm should be thoroughly examined for the presence — or even the possibility — of Palmer amaranth seed.”

Deciphering CRP Seed Tags and Understanding the Importance of PLS

CRP seed tags are important . Not only are they required for you to receive your reimbursement from FSA, but they let you know what you’re actually planting on your land.

The first time you look at a seed tag, however, you might not understand what it all means. In addition to the seed name, variety, and origin, you’ll find a list of percentages including purity, other crop, weed seed, germination, dormant seed, total germ, and PLS.

Some of these such as other crop and weed seed are pretty straight forward. If there is any noxious weed found in the mix, a percentage will be listed along with the names of the noxious weeds. This is important because certain noxious weeds are illegal in specific states , meaning you cannot plant mixes containing even trace amounts of them.

Arguably the most important percentages, however, have to do with purity, germination, and PLS.

Purity and Growth Potential

Purity , germination, and dormant seed are percentages that ultimately determine how much of a particular seed is contained within your mix and how likely it is to successfully grow. The “purity” percentage refe rs to the amount of the title seed that’s found in your mix.

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So , if your tag says Switchgrass, and the purity is 99%, that means the contents are pretty much all switchgrass seeds.

Germination, also known as live germ, is the percentage of seed that will germinate under proper soil conditions.

Dormant seed, while alive and capable of growing, is covered in a hard coat that is impermeable to water. In order to germinate, it needs to undergo either stratification or scarification.

Together, live germ and dormant seed form the total germ percentage.

Determining PLS

PLS stands for “ pure live seed ” . This is the amount of the primary crop seed within your mix that is capable of growing . Sometimes, you will find a PLS percentage listed on the tag. This is determined by taking the purity rate and multiplying it by the total germination rate (live germ plus dormant germ) and then dividing that by 100 .

Let’s say the purity is 91%, the germination is 92%, and the dormant seed is 3%. The formula would be as follows:

91 x (92 + 3) / 100

That means t he PLS percentage would be 86.45%. This can then be used to determine the PLS content of your purchase.

If you’re purchasing 50lbs of seed, and the PLS% of the mix is 85%, then there is 42.5lbs of pure live seed within your mix purchase. This is important to know as CRP is planted on a PLS basis. While seed mix with a lower PLS might be cheaper, you’ll ultimately need to purchase more of it, negating the price difference.

Your best bet is to purchase seed with high purity and PLS. That way, you can purchase and plant less seed while maximizing your chances of a successful CRP establishment.

When purchasing our own proprietary CRP seed mixes , you’ll find the PLS lbs. per acre conveniently listed so that you know exactly what you’re getting. Our seed has been reprocessed for the highest level of purity and tested for noxious weeds such as Palmer amaranth.

All CRP seed purchased from ANS come with the proper seed tags , so you know exactly what you’re getting. We’ll also keep a record of your seed tags , so you don’t h ave to worry if you lose them before submitting cost – share reporting.

If you have any questions, or you’d like us to put together a CRP seed mix quote, don’t hesitate to call us at 888-224-2004 or email us at [email protected] .

A Guide to Buying CRP Seed Mix

Buying CRP seed seems deceptively simple , but the truth is, you can’t just buy any seed mix. CRP has special requirements for the seed you use, and beyond that, not all CRP seed mixes available on the market are equal.

The quality of the seed you purchase will ultimately determine how successful your establishment is. Bad seed can leave you with a failed stand, and you’ll likely have to buy more seed to replant your project.

In order to achieve proper seed germination , you’ll want to make sure you purchase high-quality seed that qualifies for your CRP land. Here’s how you can do that.

Know Your Conservation Practice

Within CRP, there are a multitude of conservation practices (CPs). The CP that you’re enrolled in determines the f ocus of the land you’re establishing . Different CPs emphasize different areas of conservation.

For example, CP42 is for establishing pollinator habitat. When selecting CRP seed, you’ll need to make sure it’s approved for the specific CP that you’re enrolled in.

Confirm Local Ecotype or Variety

Seed is not only determined by your CP, but by the state that you’re enrolled in as well. CRP establishment relies on native vegetation that is of a local ecotype or variety. This means a particular plant originates from or is well suited for your geographical location, having evolved and adapted to the soil and climate conditions there.

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It also means that the surrounding environment has adapted to that specific plant. Animals use it for food and shelter, soil is protected by it, etc. Selecting the proper variety ensures CRP vegetation serves its purpose of restoring soil health, protecting water supplies, and providing for local wildlife.

Understand Life Cycles

As you know, plants are categorized under three life cycles: annual, biennial, and perennial. This determines when they grow, when they blossom , when they seed, and how long they live .

While traditional farm crops are mostly annuals, CRP seeds are largely perennials. This allows them to regrow year after year with little maintenance needed on your behalf. There are some CRP plants that are biennials. These are typically self-seeding, freeing you from the responsibility of replanting them.

Avoid Noxious Weeds

Weeds are an inevitable problem for virtually any planting situation. In the case of CRP, uncontrolled weeds can cause a failure of establishment. It’s very important that the seed you purchase has been tested and processed for noxious weeds such as Palmer amaranth .

Select Multiple Colors and Bloom Periods for Pollinator Mixes

Promoting diversity is an important part of pollinator habitat establishment. This is done through strategic seed selection. You’ll need to cov er the three different bloom periods: April – May, June – July, and August – October.

Your seed mix should have at least three different species for each bloom period. Additionally, you want to have at least three different colors featured in each bloom period if possible. Pollinators are attracted to specific colors depending on their species.

For example, birds are attracted to red. Bees, however, cannot see red , and therefore are drawn to other colors such as purple or blue.

Read the Seed Tags

Seed tags are much more than a simple receipt or proof of purchase . They are what verifies the contents and quality of the seed you’ve purchased. On a seed tag, you’ll find the seed mix’s origin, purity, germination rate, and more. Seed tags are also what lets you know that your seed is free from noxious weeds.

You’ll also need your seed tags for cost share reimbursement.

You’re Ready to Buy

Once you have a firm grasp on the information above, it’s time to buy your CRP seed mix. As we said before, it’s not just about purchasing the “correct” seed . Y ou want to make sure that you are purchasing quality seed.

We can help with that.

At All Native Seed, our CRP seed mixes have been reprocessed for enhanced purity and higher germination rates. They have also been tested for Palmer amaranth and other noxious weeds. All of our seed mixes come with convenient, easy to read seed tag s as well. We also keep a record of purchases and seed tags for our customers , should they need additional copies in the future.

With a seed mix from All Native Seed, you can trust that you’re getting the best CRP seed available.

To browse our personal seed mixes, click here . To get a quote for seed mixes developed by NRCS, click here . If you need any help in selecting your seed, don’t hesitate to contact us directly . And if you’d prefer to have a team of CRP professionals purchase and establish your CRP seed for you, contact our parent company FDCE .