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How to test chile seed germination
and determine percentage of live seed.

Obtain a representative sample of a seed-lot by taking subsamples from different containers of the same seed or from different areas in a seed bin. Mix the bulk sample thoroughly. Take out 20-30 grams of seed to make a composite sample for the germination test.

To calculate average seed germination:

  • Work in a clean area with clean hands.

  • Randomly select three samples of 100 seeds each (three groups of 100 seeds). Count broken, shriveled or brown seeds for the germination test if % pure seed is unknown. Otherwise, do not count damaged seed and factor in % pure seed, as described below.

  • Moisten a paper towel with clean water. Allow the excess water to drain, so the towel is wet but not soaking in water.

  • Put first 100 seeds in rows on the paper towel with 2 inches between seeds and at least 3 inches between rows.

  • Cover the towel with another moist towel and fold the towels in half several times to form a 2-3 inch wide strip.

  • Repeat for each of the two remaining 100-seed samples. Place all three folded-towel packets in a clean plastic bag.

  • Place the seeds where the temperature remains at 75-80 F. Ideally, the temperature should be controlled so that the seeds are at 68 F for 16 hours at night and at 86 F for 8 hours during the day, which is the standard test for chile seed germination. Use a minimum-maximum thermometer to determine actual temperatures.

  • Count the number of germinated seeds at 6, 10 and 14 days after sowing. Remove germinated seeds and moldy seeds at each counting.

  • Write down the number of seeds germinated at each count and average the three replications at 14 days to calculate average germination. For example, if 89, 84 and 82 seeds germinated in each sample, respectively, then 89+84+85= 258/3 = 86% germination.

  • Seeds that germinate faster with a higher germination percentage at 6 and 10 days are more vigorous. Seeds that do not germinate in 14 days may be dormant or not viable.

  • Germination at lower temperatures may require 21 days or longer.

  • If one towel is ruined by mold, take the average of the other two. If more than one towel is moldy, start again with a cleaner preparation. Seeds not treated with bleach are more likely to grow mold.

Still need more information?

Check out the "Heat Scale and Chile Chemistry" page.
Who was Wilbur Scoville?
Read the "Chile History" page.
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