For some wheat farmers, professionally grown seed may prove very expensive this season, and there could be a lot of temptation to plant seed saved on the farm instead.

But farm-saved seed may not be as much of a bargain as it might appear, says Jan Spears, North Carolina Extension seed specialist.

“If you are in the business of growing wheat, you cannot afford thin stands,” she says. “And you cannot afford to spread weed seeds or seedborne diseases throughout your farm.”

The seeds you plant set the maximum yield potential for your crop, and the highest yield potential comes from matching variety characteristics to your particular needs and getting a good fall stand.

“Your best assurance of getting high yields and high quality wheat is planting professionally grown seed,” says Spears.

Experience has repeatedly demonstrated that bin-run seed and even custom-cleaned seed is frequently of low quality, and this can lead to disaster. “The risks associated with farmer-saved seed can result in higher production costs later in the season,” says Spears.

Before planting farmer-saved seed, consider these risks carefully.

In North Carolina, wheat seed purchased from a dealer may range in cost from $13 to $15 per 50-pound bag for publicly or privately developed varieties.

At a seeding rate of 1.5 million seeds per acre, the cost could range from $20 to $31 per acre. (This assumes that seed size ranges from 11,000 to 14,000 seeds per pound and 1.5 million seeds with at least 90 percent germination are planted per acre, resulting in plantings from 101 to 129 pounds per acre.)

Higher seeding rates leading to higher costs may be required for farmer-saved seed because its germination is usually below that of professionally grown seed.

“Growers often double the seeding rate for bin-run seed,” says Spears.

“At today’s wheat prices, doubling the seeding rate may save the grower only around a dollar per acre in seed costs.”

Saved seed may be contaminated with diseases such as loose smut, Stagonospora nodorum blotch (SNB) or head scab. If the seed was produced using no-till methods, the chances of SNB or scab contamination are increased.

“If loose smut, SNB or head scab were present in the field the small grain that was harvested from, the grain should not be used for seed,” says Spears. “Doing so would contaminate the new crop.”

That may result in reduced yield, lower test weight and the potential need to apply a foliar fungicide.

“This additional cost can be avoided by planting the appropriate variety from professionally grown seed stock,” she says.