So the neighbour has “common seed” for sale. Ask to see the tag.

Common seed is a grade under the Canada Seeds Act, and as such, must meet standards set by the Canadian government, be verified by third parties, graded and labelled by qualified personnel.

What the neighbour really has for sale is commercial grain — and at a premium price.

As margins continue to be squeezed, producers continue to search for ways to cut costs. Buying seed from the neighbour or pulling some from the bin may not be the best way to do that.

Certified seed is true to type, meaning the crop will be predictable in terms of yield, lodging, disease resistance, maturity and other key characteristics. Certified seed assures specified germination, contains uniform seed sizes, provides consistency in planting, crop performance, seedling vigour, high yield, more even maturity, and minimal contamination from other crops or varieties.

And it’s all verified by third party inspections and monitoring.

Can the same be said of the seed obtained from the neighbour? Seed that may have been certified a year or two ago can’t offer the same assurances. What else was in the field, the trucks, the combines, the auger or in the bins where it was stored?

Just as the neighbour’s seed isn’t really “cheaper”, seed from the producer’s own bin isn’t really “free”. Using bin run seed may not have an obvious impact on cash flow, but it is more costly than most farmers think. The following example is typical of costs across the prairies:


If 100 bushels of HRS wheat were drawn from the bin, received the minimum effort in getting it ready for planting and used for seed, the cost per bushel is almost exactly the same as that of Certified seed.

The biggest cost is the commercial value of the grain, currently in the $4.00/bushel range. Add 20 cents/bushel for hauling it to and from the cleaning plant, not unreasonable, considering today’s fuel prices. It costs about 40 cents per bushel to clean, and on average, expect 2% shrinkage, and 20% cleanout. That leaves about 78 bushels of seed suitable for planting, providing it will germinate, has vigour and is disease- free. The only way to tell for sure is with a lab test, which all Certified seed undergoes.

The net result is that 100 bushels of “free” bin run seed costs $566.00 or $7.26 per bushel to get it ready for planting, not counting time and labour. Most popular Certified HRS wheat seed varieties sell for about $7.25 per bushel.

100 Bushels HRS @ $4.00/bu


Haul 100 bushels @ 20¢/bu.


Cleaning @ 40¢/bu.


Haul 80 bushels home @ 20¢/bu.


Germ test


Disease/vigour tests


Total Cost:
for 78 bushels of clean, bin run seed, or $7.26/bu.


Of course, farmers can continue to trim costs by not conducting any lab tests and bringing in a mobile cleaning plant to save on freight (although the cleaning costs will probably be higher), but considering an entire season’s input costs and the farm’s profitability are riding on the result, is it worth the risk?

So if you have to go to the bin, accept that there is a cost attached.

Bin run isn’t free.

Certified seed is undervalued.

And the neighbour’s commercial grain is over-priced.