Seed Science and Technology 2018-07-17T18:21:50+00:00

Course Overview

Seed companies invest significant amounts of time and money to conduct research and development in the creation of superior products. One of the most important decisions a company makes is which products to commercialize. Once a product is commercialized the most significant variable cost to the company is undertaken during seed production. Since it may take up to 10 years to develop a new product the extent of the life cycle of that particular product, in terms of the number of years it will be produced and sold to customer/farmers is critical to the financial success of the company. Plant breeding continues to create new and better performing products which tend to shorten the life cycle of seed products. This along with the advent of biotechnology traits which has created a proliferation of the number of products, makes the management of product life cycle a critical aspect in the success of a seed company.

Improvement of crop performance is a continuous process because of the necessities to improve agricultural productivity and nutritional quality in the face of ever changing climates, pressures from evolving insects, pests, and weeds, and the need to contribute to agricultural productions systems that are increasingly sustainable and help to conserve lands and biodiversity. The improvement of crop yields  is dependent upon an increase in yield due to genetic change (genetic gain) interacting with the environmental effects of weather and the agronomic management abilities of individual farmers. We will focus on the genetic aspects of crop improvement with a review of inheritance of single genes and the more prevalent and agronomically important multi-genic traits. We will review basic concepts of plant breeding including selection intensity, heritablity, genetic gain. inbreeding depression and hybrid vigour. We review basic principles of plant breeding by investigating why US farmers had not been successful in raising corn yields before the era of hybrids. The only thing that is “traditional” about agriculture and plant breeding is that methods are always changing. We will review new methods available to breeders and discuss future approaches that may be required to continue past success of plant breeding into the future.

Without high quality variety testing both advancement by breeding and more effective farm management, including choice of variety to plant would be stymied. Effective variety testing requires excellence in agronomy, biology, physiology, basic genetics, statistical design and analysis. Variety testing is vital to identify the best fit of new genetic combinations developed by breeding with target agronomic environments and farm management practices. To disentangle genetic from environmental effects it is necessary to develop a full knowledge of both the testing locations and the target production environment. Appropriate field trial and plot design are critical. Variety testing is crucial at each stage of the breeding process, becoming increasingly rigorous as numbers of potential new varieties is reduced to the best of the best for commercial release. Trials are required for both base germplasm, for genetically modified event selection, and for base germplasm when combined with genetically modified traits. Variety testing does not end at commercialisation as fresh data on genotype x environment x management continues to provide further knowledge  useful both to breeders and to farmers to optimise fits of genotype x environment x crop management. Variety testing is also important to obtain intellectual property protection of new varieties to encourage further investment and innovation in plant breeding.

This in-depth course provides information on how Seed Production turns the potential provided by Research into the reality of a high quality product that can be sold with confidence to farmer/customers. Topics covered include Planning, Relationship with Growers, Grower Contracts, Production of Parent Seed Stocks and Production of Commercial Seed. This includes details on seed field preparation, planting, integrated pest management, flowering/pollination management, harvest and the importance of seed quality throughout all these operations.

Seeds can be contaminated by fungi, bacteria, viruses, nematodes, and other pathogens that reduce seed quality and create a risk for the spread of disease. One component of managing these risks is a robust seed health testing program. Seed health testing refers to the detection of pathogens in or on seeds. Seed health testing is performed by seed companies, private laboratories, and public labs or agencies, in order to assure seed quality, to prevent disease outbreaks, and to meet phytosanitary regulations. In this part of the course, we will have lectures and demonstrations of the major seed health testing methods including visual inspection, grow-outs, incubation tests, antibody-based tests (ELISA), and DNA-or RNA-based tests (PCR).

Seed physiology is the study of the biological and biochemical processes occurring in seeds, from initiation and formation to its death. Throughout their life, seeds interact and react to environmental changes around them.  This interaction happens while seeds are in the plant, during and after harvest, in storage, and while they germinate to regenerate a new plant.

In this lecture, we will learn of the changes in seed as they develop and mature in the plant, the steps orthodox seeds (most crop and horticultural seeds) undergo to survive dehydration, and their differences with seeds that are incapable of undergoing this adaptive step. We will also evaluate the environmental conditions that accelerate or decelerate seed deterioration and death during seeds’ dry state, and learn how different levels of seed deterioration affect seed germination and regrowth under favorable and unfavorable environmental growing conditions.

Seed quality is defined as the germination, vigor, and composition characteristics that allow seeds to emerge and establish a healthy plant stand in the field. The Seed quality testing session will focus on a seed systems approach to understand the fundamental interactions between environmental factors, transgenic traits, and plant genetics.

Week At A Glance: November 05 – 09, 2018

(Schedule is subject to modifications)
November 05, 2018
8:00 – 8:30 am Shuttle from Best Western Hotel to Seed Science Center (SSC)
8:30 – 9:00 am Check-in and Registration
9:00 – 10:00 am Welcome & Course Overview
1o:20 – 12:o0 pm Introduction to Seed Life Cycle
12:00 – 1:00 pm Lunch provided
1:00 – 4:30 pm Crop Improvement
4:30 – 5:30 pm Shuttle from SSC to Best Western Hotel

November 05, 2018
8:00 – 8:30 am Shuttle from Best Western Hotel to SSC
8:30 – 12:00 pm Variety Development & Testing
12:00 – 1:00 pm Lunch provided
1:00 – 2:00 pm ISU Genomic Technologies Facility Tour
2:15 – 3:15 pm ISU Doubled Haploid Facility Presentation
3:30 – 4:30 pm ISU Plant Transformation Facility Tour
4:30 – 5:30 pm Shuttle from SSC to Best Western Hotel

November 07, 2018
8:00 – 8:30 am Shuttle from Best Western Hotel to SSC
8:30 – 12:00 pm Seed Production
12:00 – 1:00 pm Lunch provided
1:00 – 4:30 pm Seed Industry Tour
4:30 – 5:30 pm Shuttle from SSC to Best Western Hotel

November 08, 2018
8:00 – 8:30 am Shuttle from Best Western Hotel to SSC
8:30 – 12:00 pm Post Harvest Management
12:00 – 1:00 pm Lunch provided
1:00 – 4:30 pm Seed Health Testing
4:30 – 5:30 pm Shuttle from SSC to Best Western Hotel

November 09, 2018
7:30 – 8:00 am Shuttle from Best Western Hotel to SSC
8:00 – 9:40 am Seed Physiology
10:00 – 12:00 pm Seed Quality Testing
12:00 – 12:30 pm Box Lunch Provided (1/2 hour)
12:30 – 1:30 pm Seed Quality Testing
1:30 – 2:00 pm Seed Quality Testing Lab Tour (Optional)
2:00 – 2:30 pm Shuttle from Best Western Hotel to SSC


Meet Your Instructors

Gary Munkvold, PhD
Iowa State University
Professor, Plant Pathology
STB Short Course & Grad Program Director

Dave Langer, MS
Research Management

Jim Summers, PhD
Iowa State University
Associate Professor, Management

Jose Rosa, PhD
Iowa State University
Professor, Marketing

Bobby Martens, PhD
Iowa State University
Associate Professor
Supply Chain Management

Greg Lamka, PhD
Iowa State University
Dupont - Pioneer

Stephen Smith, PhD
Iowa State University
Affiliate Professor, Agronomy

Travis Sapp, PhD
Iowa State University
Associate Professor, Finance

Sam DeMarie, PhD
Iowa State University
Associate Professor, Management

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Susana Goggi, PhD
Iowa State University
Professor, Seed Physiology

Alan Gaul, MS
Iowa State University
Seed Conditioning Specialist

Short Course – Home
Seed Science & Technology
Seed Business Management
Short Course Instructors
Registration Fees & Policies
Participant Information

Short Course Dates

Seed Science & Technology
November 05 – 09, 2018

Seed Business Management
February 04 – 08, 2019

Registration Fee

$3,850/person – both courses
$2,550/person – either course
Cancellation & Minimum Attendance Policy


Seed Science Center
Iowa State University
2115 Osborn Drive
Ames, Iowa 50011


Please contact:
Cindy Robertson
STB Short Course Coordinator

Educational Credit

You can earn CEU and CCA credit at this program.


Previous Short Courses

February 2018
November 2017