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Corn and soybean seeds sprouting prior to harvest is not a common problem. However, under the right environmental conditions and crop maturity, premature germination or vivipary can occur.
Kernels on the cob are more likely to germinate when grain moisture content is below 20% and are rewetted from rainfall and air temperatures are warm. Upright ears are more prone to catching rainfall and holding water at the ear butt. This can cause a favorable environment for sprouting.1
Lodged corn plants can place ears next to soil which provide a rewetting environment. Therefore, lodged corn fields subjected to rainfall or flooding have the potential to experience sprouted kernels, much like volunteer corn in the spring.1
Should corn ears be sprouting, a timely harvest is recommended. High temperature drying can help prevent continued growth of sprouts and additional sprouting. The grain should be screened prior to storing to remove seedling tissue, damaged grain, and other foreign material. Consideration should also be given to removing several loads of grain from a full bin to reduce the concentration of fines and other foreign material near the center of the bin.1
Sprouted soybean seed may occur when the seed moisture content of a mature crop is less than 50% and the crop experiences very wet conditions causing the pods to split open at their seam. The potential size and number of soybean pods on a soybean plant is determined early in the season. If this determination is under stress, smaller pods may develop. Should wet weather occur at the proper time, the pods may spit as the seeds become too large for the pod. The exposed seed is then susceptible to sprouting.
Sprouted seeds may drop from pods if dry conditions return for about a week. Additionally, combine adjustments should be made to allow for the sprouts and light test weight seed to be removed and deposited onto the ground.
1Nielsen, R. L. 2012. Premature corn kernel sprouting (aka vivipary). Corny News Network Articles. Purdue University. https://www.agry.purdue.edu/.
2Ross, J. 2016. Arkansas soybeans: splitting pods, sprouting seeds in pods. Arkansas Row Crops. University of Arkansas. http://www.arkansas-crops.com. Web sources verified 10/18/18. 181008085721