If you've shopped for seeds at some point, you've probably noticed that you can buy the same seed in a different form. Some seeds are available as organic, untreated, treated, raw, pelleted, and more.
What do all these seed forms mean, and are they safe to plant?
Seed Treatment Types
Below are the most common seed types on the market. All the listed treatments are completely safe for planting and eating the vegetables grown from them.
Treated seed has a coating around the seed to protect it from specific seed- or soil-borne pathogens, improving it's germination rate and seedling health.
The treatment may be hot water, chemical, or biological, depending on the pathogen involved. Treatment is applied under controlled conditions, in a commonly recognized fashion, at the manufacturer’s recommended rate.
Treated seed is usually a bright color to help growers easily distinguish it from other seeds. Seed treatments typically breakdown in the soil within 10-14 days.
Some of our seed packages are labeled "DO NOT USE SEED FOR FOOD, FEED OR OIL". The seed itself is not edible, however vegetables and fruit grown from treated seed are most certainly safe and suitable for eating. In fact, many commercial growers use treated seed in their vegetable and fruit production since it improves the performance of the seed and seedling. Much of the non-organic produce in grocery stores and farmers' markets is grown using treated seed.
Insect Guard treated corn seed is treated with Cruiser, a protectant with numerous benefits.
1. Protects against flea beetles up to the five true-leaf (V5) stage, lessening transmission of Stewart’s Bacterial Wilt.
2. Minimizes stand loss due to wireworm, seed corn maggot, and other
secondary pest damage.
3. Provides contact and systemic protection.
4. Pre-treated seed provides efficient and easy-to-use seedling protection against insect pests. Please note, does not protect against corn borer or earworm.
Filmcoated seed has been coated with an inert, food-grade material for easier handling and flowability. When treated seed is filmcoated, the filmcoat helps the treatment adhere to the seed.
Certified Organic Growers: Filmcoat ingredients are not OMRI Listed.
Untreated seed is clean and has not been treated using any chemical, biological, or physical method. While untreated seed can be grown under organic conditions, the seed crop was not grown under Certified Organic Conditions.
Untreated seed is a popular alternative to organic seed.
Certified Organic Growers: Untreated seed may be allowed in Certified Organic production, provided that a comparable variety is not available in Certified Organic seed. Check with your certifying agency for approval. Pellet ingredients for pelleted untreated seed (product numbers ending in 11-02) are not approved for use in Certified Organic production.
Seed in its “raw” form, comes in from the parent plant, is clean and has not been treated using any chemical, biological, or physical method.
Organic seed is clean and untreated, and it was grown and harvested under Certified Organic conditions. Organic seed is allowed for use in Certified Organic production.
Many home gardeners use organic seed for their vegetable and flower gardens.
Pellet ingredients for pelleted organic seed (product numbers ending in 11-03) are NOP approved for use in Certified Organic production.
Pelleted seed has been coated with an inert material in order to increase the seed size for easier planting.
Small seeds, such as lettuce, are frequently pelleted to increase the size of the seed, allowing growers to have more control over where the seed is planted.
The trick to germinating pelleted seed is to keep the soil moist, but not soggy. The water will either dissolve the coating or crack it open, allowing the seed to sprout. If the pelleted seed doesn’t get enough water, the coating remains intact around the seed, preventing the seed from accessing water or other essential nutrients.
To ensure an even higher rate of germination, use a plastic dome or sheet over the top of your trays to better maintain a humid environment. Certified Organic Growers: Pellet ingredients are not OMRI Listed. Pellet ingredients for pelleted untreated seed (product numbers ending in 11-02) are not approved for use in Certified Organic production. Pellet ingredients for pelleted organic seed (product numbers ending in 11-03) are NOP approved for use in Certified Organic production.
In multi-pelleted seed, the pellet contains more than one seed. One pellet will create multiple plants.
Primed seed has been primed for easier germination, through a physical processes like steam treatment or through chemical treatment.
Certified Organic Growers: Priming processes vary by seed type and supplier. Contact us for more information, and check with your certifier for guidance on using primed seed.
Fibrous “tails” have been removed from seeds for easier handling and flowability. This may be achieved through either a physical or chemical process.
Certified Organic Growers: Detailing processes vary by seed type and supplier. Contact us for more information, and check with your certifier for guidance on using detailed seed.
Have any further questions for us about seed treatments? Drop them in the comments.