Seed quality is of great concern heading into this year, says the owner of a seed lab.
“In 22 years, I haven’t seen a crop as badly diseased as what we have right now,” Discovery Seed Lab owner Bruce Carriere told seed growers during Crop Production Week.
Fusarium graminearum is prevalent in all crop districts across Saskatchewan with heavy levels of infection in many regions.
Districts where growers might be able to find seed with the lowest levels of infection are 3A-S, 3B-S, 3B-N, 4A, 4B, 7A, 7B and 9B.
Carriere is particularly concerned about durum seed quality.
Slightly more than half of the 2,200 samples that have come through Discovery’s Saskatoon office have germination rates lower than 85 percent.
Carriere estimates the average germination rate is 68 percent once he removes what he believes to be carryover seed from the 2013 crop. That is well below the long-term average of 86 percent.
“It really sucks to be durum this year,” he said.
“Most of the other crops are not in such bad shape. The durum is going to be a struggle this year. It really is.”
Wheat germination is only slightly below the long-term average of 91.9 percent, but Carriere is particularly concerned about the range of 39 to 99 percent. Fifteen percent of the samples the lab has received are below 85 percent germination.
Barley is at 91.7 percent, which is slightly above the long-term average of 90.9 percent, but that is based on an unusually small sample size.
Oat germination is 90 percent, which is well above the long-term average of 86.1 percent. However, 17 percent of the samples have been under 85 percent germination.
Peas are another crop with better than average germination rates of 93.8 percent, up from the long-term average of 91.8 percent. Only nine percent of the samples have less than 85 percent germination.
“Peas are the exception to the rule,” he said.
“Every time we have a problem with cereal crops, peas are always good.”
Lentil germination is down a little, while flax is up slightly.
Carriere said growers should seek out seed with germination rates around 95 percent, but this year they may be forced to compensate for much lower levels by increasing seeding rates.
He said farmers should use seed lots with fusarium levels of less than five percent. In districts where the disease was less prevalent, they should seek out lots with infection levels of less than 3.5 percent.
Seed treatments are a must.
As well, farmers in areas where fusarium was rampant should plant varieties with a built-in level of resistance.
“They have some great value to them,” said Carriere.
He advised seed growers to tell their clients to boost seeding rates despite grower skepticism that it’s just a ploy to sell more seed.
Increasing seeding rates reduces tillers, which is probably the single most important thing growers can do to combat the disease.
There is a short two to three day window for applying fungicides. Growers spraying for flowers on the main stem are missing out on the opportune time to combat infection in the tillers. The result is an infected crop and a wasted seed treatment.
Carriere warned growers that there is no correlation between a fuzz count at the elevator or a vomitoxin test and a fusarium test done at the lab. Seed that passes a fuzz count or vomitoxin test could still be full of the disease.