The Risks of Carrying Over Seed from One Year to the Next

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Buy Ahead to Circumvent Rising Costs?

Rising costs of inputs including fuel, fertilizer, and herbicides have some growers considering purchasing and accepting delivery of seed today, to use next year. While this may appear to offer a financial advantage, it is important that growers are aware of the effects improper storage can have on seed quality. The following information from Pioneer Agronomy Sciences explains the importance of proper storage and losses that can occur when seed is not stored properly.

Importance of Proper Storage of Seed

  • To maintain optimum physiological quality, seed should be stored at 12.5% moisture and 50°F (10°C).
  • For every 10-degree Fahrenheit (5.5-degree Celsius) increase in storage temperature, the shelf life of seed can be reduced by up to 50%.
    • Seed not kept below 50°F (10°C) can experience reduced germination and vigor in the field.
    • Seed stored above 50°F (10°C) is also more susceptible to insect damage because insects are more active at higher temperatures.
  • For every one percent increase above 12.5% in stored seed moisture, shelf life can be reduced by up to 50%.
  • When seed imbibes water, it goes through a process of repairing DNA. Seed that has not been kept in cold storage has more DNA to repair, which in turn reduces vigor.

In addition to these items, federal seed laws require retesting and retagging of seed each year. As a result, seed carried over on the farm cannot be warranted by Pioneer. Such seed is also not eligible for Pioneer replant protection in the event of hail, flooding, insect damage, or any other cause of stand reduction or loss.

Pioneer Quality Standards

Pioneer has the seed industry’s highest production and quality control standards, assuring growers they get the highest quality seed for planting. The proprietary Pioneer Stress Test allows for optimal separation between high and low quality (Ennen et al., 2021). It can detect small differences in vigor that may indicate a seed lot needs to be discarded.

This is a photo showing seed stored in a climate-controlled warehouse.

Pioneer® brand seed corn returned to local sales rep warehouses is immediately transferred to climate-controlled storage to ensure that conditions are maintained for optimum seed quality.

Testing Points

New crop seed is tested in the fall at harvest to determine the initial quality. After conditioning, all seed sizes of each sizing run are tested again; all seed sizes must meet the same high-quality criteria. Carryover seed must meet the same quality criteria as new crop seed. Pioneer does not differentiate between new crop and carryover when evaluating test results.

Pioneer customers can be confident that every batch they plant has been thoroughly tested in this extensive screening program and meets Pioneer’s industry-leading standards.

Bottom Line

The risks of reduced quality, a voided warranty, and stand reductions that reduce yield far outweigh the perceived savings of buying seed today with intentions of carrying it over to the following year.


  • Ennen, R., E. Thorson, M. Jeschke, N. Hoss, and J. Johnson. 2021. Corn Vigor and Seed Quality Testing. Pioneer Crop Focus. Vol. 13 No. 4. 

Pioneer Stress Test

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The foregoing is provided for informational use only. Please contact your Pioneer sales professional for information and suggestions specific to your operation. Product performance is variable and depends on many factors such as moisture and heat stress, soil type, management practices and environmental stress as well as disease and pest pressures. Individual results may vary.

Pioneer® brand products are provided subject to the terms and conditions of purchase which are part of the labeling and purchase documents.