Advancements in Seed Counting Technologies Prompt Committee to Pursue Rule Change Proposal

Seed Counting

ISU Seed Lab Manager and Association of Official Seed Analysts (AOSA) Vice President Mike Stahr is currently serving on an ad hoc committee that is developing an AOSA Rule change proposal. The proposal seeks to include electronic seed counters in Volume 1 of the AOSA Rules for Testing Seed  that currently governs the use of mechanical seed counters.

Stahr says that although some aspects of seed testing haven’t changed greatly in the last 100 years, the emergence of biotech traits, on-line seed herbariums, cameras that measure the rate of seedling growth, and the increased use of electronic seed counters have brought about significant changes in the seed testing industry.

“Years ago, the alternative to counting seeds by hand was to use a trip board, which typically has a capacity for 100 seeds,” says Stahr. “A big leap from that method was the invention of the vibratory mechanical seed counter, which walks (by vibrating) seeds up a type of spiral staircase until they drop one by one past a photo eye.” By using this method, Stahr says a 500-gram sample of soybean seed might take five minutes to be counted.

Today another major advancement in seed counting is the use of electronic seed counters that can accurately count some species of seed at the rate of hundreds of seeds per second. These electronic seed counters not only have the ability to count very small and irregularly shaped seeds, but can also provide information about seed surface area and color.

To better understand how widespread the use of electronic seed counters is, Stahr’s committee sent a survey to AOSA labs and Society of Commercial Seed Technologists (SCST) members inviting them to share information regarding their use of mechanical vs. electronic seed counters. “One of the findings has been that nearly 50% of the respondents are using electronic seed counters,” he said.

A Rule change proposal will be submitted in October. To support the proposal, Stahr’s committee is conducting a referee comparing the use of mechanical and electronic seed counters. AOSA Rules are added each year, and existing rules are modified in recognition of advances in seed testing or changes in the use of seeds. Submission of AOSA Rule proposals are due by mid-October each year and cover a wide range of topics in seed testing. Individuals attending the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) conference in Chicago each December have the opportunity to preview the submitted proposals. Proposals that meet AOSA requirements (those that have supporting evidence, or are submitted in cooperation with other labs, etc.) are posted on the AOSA and SCST website ( in February and are announced in a webinar in early May. Proposals are then discussed and voted on at the AOSA/SCST Annual Meeting each June. Successful Rule proposals are incorporated into the AOSA Rules for Testing Seeds  and are released the following October.