Top tips for growing farm-saved seed

If you plan to farm-save seed, it is worth investing extra in the crop. Good quality seed is the starting point in cereal production, and it is important to give such crops the best opportunity to deliver optimum yield and quality.

Farm-saved seed information

Use the best field(s)

  • Lowest weed populations
  • Lowest soilborne/trash-borne disease pressure (check the field’s rotation history)
  • Well-drained soil
  • Balanced pH, P, K and Mg index levels

Pick the strongest variety

Use the AHDB Recommended Lists and consider:

  • Proposed market (e.g. milling, feed or malting)
  • Place in the rotation
  • Cropping history
  • Environment (e.g. region and soil type)
  • Drilling date
  • Disease resistance
  • Straw strength
  • Crop management practices (e.g. conservation agriculture, low input or conventional)
  • Best practice is to save seed from a crop grown from certified seed

Give the crop the best chance

  • Form a good seedbed
  • Prioritise operations (e.g. cultivation and drilling)
  • Drill accurately with the optimum seed rate
  • Prioritise weed, pest and disease management

Ensure the smoothest harvest possible

  • Inspect seed crops regularly
  • After ear emergence, check for seedborne disease symptoms
  • Avoid farm-saved seed from crops with high disease levels
  • Clean down combine before harvest (to minimise contamination risks)
  • Set up combine correctly to minimise mechanical damage to grain
  • Harvest a fully mature crop in the best possible conditions to ensure the highest seed viability

Have a post-harvest plan

  • Research the types/levels of cleaning available
  • Select the best cleaning process/capacity* for your crop
  • Prioritise seed crops for processing/storage
  • Follow best grain storage practice**
  • Avoid storage in locations where chemicals may damage the seed
  • Store seed separately and labelled (e.g. with variety name)
  • Before cleaning or drying, send a representative sample to a laboratory to test for germination and the presence of seedborne diseases***

*Seed-cleaning services include:

  • Bulk rotary cleaning – cleans/grades grain (remove screenings)
  • Bulk colour separation – typically used to remove ergot, weed seeds and other contaminants
  • Modified gravity cleaning – speciality cleaning of high-value crops

**Take care when drying seed and use the lowest temperatures possible (do not exceed 49°C) to avoid seed germination problems.

***This will determine if the seed is suitable for use and whether a seed treatment is needed. A 300–500 g repesentative sample is normally sufficient for germination and disease testing.

Make eligible farm-saved seed payments

BSPB information on farm-saved seed for growers


Farmer throwing a shovel of cereal grains
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