Non-sprouting seeds can sound discouraging but it is nothing to stress about. Not all seeds are the same; most of them need variable conditions for optimum growth.
Ms Annet Nalumu, a farmer in Lira District chose to plant grains after seeds she bought from an agro-input shop failed to germinate.
Nalumu’s experience is no different from other farmers whose seeds have failed to germinate. However, with some close observation and patience, seeds can germinate just fine.
Extreme temperature and lack of consistent moisture are the likely causes of seeds not germinating or seedlings withering. Here is a list of factors that affect seed germination and the condition can be avoided by taking care of these small things.
Storing the seeds in an appropriate manner is crucial to keep their germination potency. Seeds must be kept out of moist areas to avoid rot. It is also important to keep them out of overheated areas so that they do not dry out.
“Store the seeds in an airtight container or packet, in a cool and dark place. Remember to read the seed packet for storage instructions,” says Moses Otim a crop agronomist.
“If you make your own seeds, remember to never put them away without letting them dry completely as this can cause them to rot or mold. Also, make sure the seeds you save belong to a healthy parent plant otherwise they can harbour infection and prevent sprouting,” says John Mary Olupot an extension officer at Naro.
Most of the stores and nurseries sell hybrid seeds but you would like to start with heirloom and pure seeds for a healthier crop as most plants are otherwise treated with pesticides and fertilisers. “Be sure to purchase seeds from a trusted seeds company or a seed bank for the best genetics.”
“A lookout for expiry date as expired seeds may not germinate at all is also necessary,” says Jane Akello a soil scientist.
Seed dormancy is a condition in which seeds fail to germinate under optimal environmental conditions. “Seeds come out of their state of dormancy if their dormancy factors are broken in physical or chemical form. Seeds often have a thick seed coat constituting physical dormancy. That is why it is recommended to pre-soak or scratching the surface of some seed varieties. Many seeds have internal chemical dormancy that prevents germination,” says Olupot.
Spacing and placement
While some seeds require pre-soaking, or to be scratched off their coats to break dormancy, others can be directly sown. It is extremely important to ensure that they are planted at just the right level of depth. Overcrowding can cause various nutritional problems. Make sure that too many plants are not competing for the same limited resources by putting them together in a tight space as many shall surely lose.
When it comes to planting, timing is key as it involves temperature levels. Be watchful that the soil temperature is not too cold for your seeds. Mr Patrick Alip, an agricultural officer in Lira District recommends that you keep them above 15°C as they require warmth to germinate.
Similarly, the soil temperature should not be too warm otherwise the seeds are going to cook and consequently die. “Watch out when you throw them out on a warm day to keep the warmth levels in check, below 27°C,” says Alip.
Avoid over fertilizing
Resist the eagerness of plantinging seeds too early for your region just when the season approaches as they won’t germinate, or die off before they are ready to sprout. Also, make sure you are not over-fertilising the soil. While it is normal to be concerned about soil health, it is also possible to add more than is needed.
Pests and diseases
The garden is a host of a huge list of possible diseases, insects and pests that can infect seed germination and stop their growth.
If you have sown directly, chances are they might become a feast for birds, mice, and other things capable of eating your seeds.
Similarly, your garden is equally vulnerable in the initial few weeks after you plant. Your seedlings and plants can be prone to some of the common attacks of aphids, nematodes, snails, wireworm, beetle worm, and leafhoppers.