In my last column, I spoke about how it helps to think of seed treatment as a preventative measure to keep your seed from falling ill. Seed is an investment that needs to be protected. That means seed treatment should be used. Here’s why it’s a good idea to use it in 2018.

Spring has been late across the Prairies, and that means cold soil — prime conditions for root rots of all kinds. Seed won’t want to germinate as soon as it hits the ground, which means it’ll be sitting in the soil and vulnerable to disease. Again, root rots like Pythium will be huge concerns, even in pulses.

Browning root rot or Pythium root rot is predominantly a seedling disease, causing reduced stands, delayed maturity and yield reductions. Pythium is most frequent where soil oxygen levels are low due to high rainfall. In western Canada, disease develops in wet soils low in phosphorus and organic matter. Spores of Pythium survive for many years in soil and crop residue. The worst outbreaks with heaviest damage occur when a dry spell is followed by abundant rain.

Damping off occurs frequently when germination takes place under wet conditions. Seedlings that emerge usually recover but may experience impaired root development and delayed maturity. Look for disease symptoms in patches throughout fields, especially waterlogged

areas. Infected plants become chlorotic and lower leaves turn yellow, then brown. Underground, look for dead root tips on small plants and brown lesions on roots of larger plants, particularly at tips of young roots. Barley is more sensitive than wheat.

We had a large amount of snow still on the ground in mid-April, now so there will be ample soil moisture. These kinds of diseases thrive in wet soil.

It will be important to ensure you’re not treating cold seed. Putting seed treatment onto cold seed causes flash freezing of the seed treatment, causing it to flake off or get sticky. It’s a good idea to avoid this by treating on warmer days, if you can, or else turning on an aeration fan to warm the seed up prior to treating it.

Treating your seed is a hugely valuable weapon in this fight against pathogens that we’ll soon be seeing. Currently available products do a great job of tackling these diseases, but these products continue to evolve and are only becoming more powerful. In my next column, I’ll offer some insights into how I see seed treatments evolving in the future.

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