Now that 2017 is here, seed quality for the coming season is a concern for two reasons.

Seed-borne fungus in cereal seed — lots of questions have been coming in on mycotoxin levels in feed. Other fusarium species appear to be on the rise as well. The geography of these hot spots of F. graminearum are spread throughout many districts of Western Canada, including southern and central Saskatchewan, southern Alberta and Manitoba.

We are observing and hearing of low infection rates in central Alberta, but the incidence is trending higher than in previous years.

The other major concern is higher-than-usual ascochyta levels in pulses. This situation was caused by all the rain and snow we received during the harvest period as well as seed-borne fungus.

The diseases that we are seeing could equate to reduced plant population and stand density and yield for harvest 2017, which is a major concern for many. Seed treatment products that act as both a contact and systemic fungicide protect the seed and will help mitigate this disease pressure. The most vulnerable time for a crop is before it emerges.

Application is key. There is nothing more important than applying the seed treatment in a way that will allow you to get good uniform coverage on the seed.

There are some common myths about seed treatment. One is that seed treatments just cover the seed and protect it from that point onward, having no effect on the seed’s current disease state. In reality, seed treatments can actually reduce the amount of disease in seed after treating and protect the inside and outside of the seed.

Another myth? That seed treatments only last on the seed for a few days. A good seed treatment product should protect seeds from disease for two to three weeks after planting.

As for what 2017 will bring, it really depends on how the weather plays out for the winter and spring months. A harsh cold winter could help to kill off some soil-borne diseases. Best practices include having your seed sent away and tested at an accredited lab, and planting only high germinating and high vigour seed back into the ground.

I hope to see an increase in seed treatment usage, especially after seeing so many seed tests come back with such high levels of disease. These concerns should be taken seriously, as sub-par germination, combined with elevated seed-borne fungus, could jeopardize targeted plant populations and result in uneven stand establishment.

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