Importance of Reading a Seed Tag​

The seed tag conveys all pertinent information associated with a given bag, box or bulk load of seed (Figures 1 and 2). Seed tags must be present on every package of seed sold in the U.S., including vegetables, grasses, corn, soybean and many other products. Seed tags provide specific information that will allow seed buyers to make informed choices.

The Federal Seed Act requires that every unit of seed be labeled truthfully and, along with state seed laws, sets minimum guidelines of what must be on a seed tag as well as testing procedures to ensure the information is correct.

The following information is commonly found on the seed tag; some of the information is required by law and other information is provided to aid farmers in making decisions.

  • Product name – commercial identification of a product
  • Kind – identifies the species or subspecies which singly or collectively is known by one common name (e.g., corn, soybean, etc.)
  • Variety – identifies a subdivision of the kind and which subdivisions are differentiated by characteristics such as relative maturity, growth rate, kernel size, trait package, etc.
  • Hybrid – identifies when seed was produced as a hybrid
  • Origin – identifies the origin of the seed
  • Lot number – numeric or alphanumeric code that is individual to a specific quantity of seed for tracking purposes
  • Net weight – how much product is in the package by weight; seed may also be labeled to show seed count or seeds per pound
  • Percent pure seed (where applicable) – percentage by weight of the named variety in the package; products that contain two or more varieties in excess of 5% of the total package generally do not use the term “pure”
  • Percent inert matter – percentage by weight of other material in the package that is not a seed
  • Percent of other crops – percentage by weight of other crop seed that is in the package
  • Percent of weed seeds – percentage by weight of weed seed that is in the package
  • Name of noxious weed seeds (including the number of seeds/lb present) – this tells you if there is any restricted noxious weed seed present in the package, noxious weed seed is classified by each state and may differ by state
  • Germination – this gives the percentage of seeds capable of producing normal seedlings under ordinarily favorable conditions of germination as of the time of testing
  • Hard seed – tells how much seed, if any, did not germinate due to hardness or impermeability during germination testing
  • Germination test date – date (month and year) that the seed was tested
  • Name and address of the seller
  • Treated seed – the label will state that the seed has been treated and provide the name of the treatment and other important information, including planting restrictions and personal protective equipment for handling treated seed
  • Other information growers may need to make decisions – for example, seed size, relative maturity of the seed, thousand kernel weight, etc.

After the seed is planted, it is always a good idea to keep a copy of a seed tag for future reference. This will allow the buyer and seller the ability to track the seed should the need arise.

Figure 1. Example of a Channel® brand seed corn tag.
Figure 2. Example of Channel® brand soybean tag.

Federal Seed Act. United States Department of Agriculture.

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