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Seed Priming

When buying your seed for next seasons crop, your seed distributor may ask, do you want your seed primed? That is a great question.  Opting for primed seed may cost you a bit more per acre but what exactly does it mean to prime seed? More importantly, how will your crop benefit? First, let’s start with a brief explanation of priming.

In layman’s terms, seed priming is a seed treatment that regulates the germination process by managing the temperature and seed moisture content. The seed is taken through a biochemical process within that activates the initial stages of germination. The priming process regulates the seed’s temperature and moisture content, bringing the seed closer to the point of germination and then carefully dried to stop germination for planting. Basically, the priming process advances the seed to the same stage of maturity so that the seed will emerge uniformly in the field.  When the primed seeds are planted, you are shortening the germination time and improving the uniformity of the crop upon emergence.

If you are considering purchasing primed seed, you need to keep in mind the quanity of carry over seed vs shelf life. Since priming activates the germination process it reduces the shelf life vs unprimed seed. The shelf life of primed seed tends to not exceed six months to maybe a year depending on the quality of the raw seed prior to the priming treatment. If you have raw seed stored from years prior, you may want to test the germination prior to planting. Otherwise you may end up with spotty field emergence.


⁣➡️ Hydro-priming – soaking seeds in water and re-drying them to original moisture to start the pre-germination metabolic activities.⁣

➡️ Halo-priming – the treatments of seeds with inorganic solutions such as sodium chloride (NaCl), calcium chloride (CaCl2), calcium sulfate (CaSO4).⁣

➡️ Osmo-priming – soaking seeds in different concentrations of osmotic solutions of e.g., polyethylene glycol (PEG), glycerol, sorbitol, mannitol, followed by air-drying prior to sowing.⁣

➡️ Hormonal-priming – using plant growth regulators such as abscisic acid, salicylic acid, kinetin, auxins, gibberellins, ethylene, polyamines, to induce seeds uptake of water.⁣

➡️ Solid matrix priming (SMP) – seeds are mixed with a solid material such as peat moss, charcoal, compost sand, and water, separated from the matrix, washed and dried. The solid matrix hydrates seeds slowly and simulates natural uptake of water by seeds in the soil.⁣

➡️ Bio-priming – pre-soaking seeds and mixing with bio-agent (inoculation with beneficial microorganisms). The method is effective for disease management.⁣

The Benefits of Seed Priming

So how will you benefit from planting primed seeds? Besides a faster speed of emergence, there are several benefits of using primed seed. Priming enables seed to germinate and emerge even under adverse agro-climatic conditions such as cold and wet or extreme heat. Uniform emergence helps optimize harvesting efficiency which can increase yield potential. If all the plants emerge at the same time, they will likely mature at the same time for harvest. Priming also helps improve vigor for fast and healthy plant development.

Primed Lettuce Seed Emerging from OxyKote Pellet
Primed Lettuce Seed Emerging from OxyKote Pellet

Most Seed Technology companies offers both conventional and organic priming options for crops such as carrots, lettuce, cucumbers, onions, tomatoes, peppers and other vegetable species. For each species, there are other seed treatments options such as pelleting, encrustments, film coated with crop protection products that you may stack/combine with your priming treatment.


If you have a vegetable variety that you prefer that is having troubles with uniformity or speed of emergence, priming might be a solution. You may consider conducting a primed seed trial to see if it gives your crop the extra boost it needs to perform for optimum yield. Before you invest in any new crop input, conducting your own field trials is the best way to determine whether or not the seed treatments you are considering are the best option for your growing conditions.

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