So much in farming is out of the farmer’s control: The weather. The market. The price of gas. Yet starting with quality seed increases the odds of success. The Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce (MDAC) Seed Testing Laboratory, located at the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) in Starkville, helps farmers make sound planting decisions throughout the year by providing valuable and reliable information about the quality of seed before it is purchased. “Generally, we perform approximately 20,000 different lab analyses a year; most commonly on cotton, rice, wheat and soybean seed,” says MDAC Seed Lab Director, Fabian Watts. The Seed Lab is equipped with the latest technology such as germinators, accelerated aging chambers and electronic seed counters. The team of professionally trained seed analysts performs a variety of tests to determine seed purity and truth in labeling and to predict how the seed is likely to perform in the field under a variety of conditions. Testing time ranges from seven to 30 days, accord to Watts, depending on the particular crop involved. As part of the regulatory agency, BPI Inspectors collect thousands of samples each year from current stock available in the marketplace, which is then analyzed by the Seed Lab to ensure seed quality and truth in labeling. “We perform purity examinations to determine the percentage of noxious weeds, foreign matter and weed seed that might be present. The seed is then subjected to a standard germination test, giving us an indication of how the seed will perform under ideal conditions,” explains Watts. These tests are used to determine if the seed lot is labeled properly, protecting the investments of farmers, homeowners, gardeners and nurserymen. A stop sale is placed on the lot of seed if any of the tests conducted reveal a problem with the seed such as incorrect labeling or our of tolerance germination. In addition to regulatory testing, seed companies can send samples to the Seed Lab to receive valuable third-party results, assisting in the packaging and labeling of seeds for sale. Tests usually run from about six to twelve dollars a sample. Not only may standard germination tests be requested, but companies may request a wide array of tests like vigor and accelerated aging to provide the type of information growers may value most. “For example, a cool test on cotton seed could provide data indicating how well seed will perform under cool, wet growing conditions, which we often experience during the early spring planting season. This test will allow the seed company to choose which varieties may perform better at different times and under different conditions,” says Watts. The services of the Seed Lab are also directly available to farmers interested in submitting a sample of each commodity they grow for testing free of charge. According to Bureau of Plant Industry Director, John Campbell, the increased amount of samples sent to MDAC’s Seed Lab in the past 10 years is evidence the lab is one of the best in the country. Each seed analyst is an active member of the Association of Official Seed Analysts and the Society of Commercial Seed Technologists. All lab analyses adhere strictly to the Association of Official Seed Analysts “Rules for Testing Seed,” which promote uniformity and a high standard of seed testing on a national level. “People are choosing to send their seed to us because we provide high quality, accurate results in a timely manner. We are able, with the support of the seed industry, to purchase and maintain state-of-the-art equipment and continue training our dedicated and knowledgeable staff,” says Campbell.