INSIDERS Don’t Underestimate the Value of a Plant Analysis

Don’t Underestimate the Value of a Plant Analysis


Sarah Foster
Sarah Foster
President and Senior Seed Analyst, 20/20 Seed Labs - Sarah Foster is a registered seed technologist, senior seed analyst and president of 20/20 Seed Labs — a company she started in 1989 that provides testing services for all crop kinds, including extensive quality and seed health analysis, molecular testing and accredited crop inspection. Involved in the seed industry since the late 1970s, Foster studied and qualified as an accredited seed analyst at the National Institute of Agricultural Botany in Cambridge, England. Her work experience includes seven years with Sharps Seed International (Advanta) in the United Kingdom, and five years with the United Grain Growers in Edmonton after immigrating to Canada in 1984.

A quick visit to look at a farmer’s field turned out to be very worthwhile. An agronomist I am not, but an analyst I am! I’ve been around enough to know what some of the plant symptoms will amount to for seed quality.

The 2019 harvest is well underway in most parts of Canada. Once again, our attention turns to the season’s harvest and what surprises we may have in store as far as yield and quality.

We have not tested enough harvest samples yet to make an assessment but driving around Alberta I noted some fields of particular interest.

I was fortunate enough to meet some of the growers and chat about the crops of interest.

In this particular case I walked a pea field and on first observation the field was in various stages of maturity. The plants ranged from very brown to bright green. I was allowed to pull several plants as the grower suspected root rot and “some other problem” with mold in the pods. These I took back to the lab and our disease diagnostician confirmed Ascochyta/Mycosphaerella sp. – 100%, Botrytis sp. – 14%, Epicoccum sp. – 8%, and Alternaria sp. – 12%.

Diagnosis: Ascochyta blight caused by Ascochyta/Mycosphaerella species.

These disease symptoms are most certainly associated with wet conditions and were heightened to a certain extent by hail damage earlier on. The yield will be compromised.

Also, I later found out that the field would be sprayed to assist with drydown and weed control. This certainly helps to even up maturity.

The wet conditions affected the root development, which made the pea plants lay down so combining will be tricky and could cause further damage such as cracking, leading to mechanical damage and abnormal seedlings in the germination.

All of this field information is so useful for a preliminary report and helps germination analysts later understand the results through accessing field history. We certainly cannot visit every field, but this was one of a few that will allow us to prepare for the upcoming season.