WSU Extension Q&A: Test to check to see if old vegetable seeds are still good

WSU ExtensionMarch 28, 2014 


Vegetable seed packets


Q. I have some vegetable seeds left over from a few years ago. How can I tell if they will still be useable this spring?

A. Dampen a paper towel and place it in a plastic sandwich container. Place a small amount of the seeds in question on the wet paper towel and close the lid. After seven to 10 days, seeds that are still viable will have sprouted.

Q. How did the 4-H program begin?

A. 4-H began in the early 1900s. The first groups were called Boys and Girls Clubs. Then in 1914, Congress passed an act that established Cooperative Extension and 4-H. Cooperative Extension is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and is also part of Washington State University. Through Extension, WSU reaches out to the community.

Q. How much loss of nitrogen can occur with urea, and where should you use urease inhibitors with urea in grass production?

A. Urea is the leading nitrogen fertilizer used in the U.S. Although it possesses a high percentage of nitrogen (46 percent), the process it goes through after application, where it combines with water, lends to nitrogen loss through volatilization. In situations where you can incorporate urea into the soil with tillage, it will limit this volatilization. However, mechanical incorporation is not always feasible, so incorporation with irrigation water can substitute.

Don Horneck, with Oregon State University, ran a trial where he looked at ammonia volatilization under six irrigation rates. Don discovered that the nitrogen loss to volatilization decreased as irrigation rate increased and ranged from 60 percent loss to 2.8 percent loss at the high irrigation rate. In summary, at least a half-inch of irrigation is needed to reduce ammonia losses.

What do you do if you can't irrigate in your timothy fields? This is where a, urease inhibitor Agrotain has been shown to be effective. Horneck's research has shown that Agrotain works better than other urease inhibitors tested, and should be used in timothy and other grass fields early in the spring before water incorporation is possible. More information can be found at

-- Questions should be called in to the WSU Extension offices in Kennewick at 735-3551 or Pasco at 545-3511.

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