Pedigreed seed supply looks in great shape

Western Canada’s pedigreed seed growers harvested what looks to be a high-quality seed crop last fall with generally good germination and vigour scores and few disease concerns, lab analysts said last week.

During a recent Seed Talk Series event hosted by the Saskatchewan Seed Growers Association, seed analysts from Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta said the pedigreed seed crop came off in good shape last fall.

Apart from a few isolated issues, the quality of certified seed for most crop types was above average, with germination and vigour scores exceeding five-year averages in most areas.

Favourable harvest conditions contributed to a high quality crop.

“Thankfully, we did not see any major (weather) catastrophes overall in Manitoba,” said Shari Lafreniere, senior seed analyst with 20/20 Seed Labs in Winnipeg.

“There were regional issues but overall, things went very well from seeding to harvest.”

Added Jason Danielson with Discovery Seed Labs in Saskatoon: “It looks like a pretty decent year but there are definitely some red flags.… Germination and vigour, for the most part, were really good in all cereals and pulses but we are seeing some issues in oats, though, likely caused by frost prior to harvest.”

Disease levels observed in certified seed supplies were relatively low in 2020, analysts said.

Fusarium graminearum was not a prevalent concern, although there was some regional variability in graminearum numbers.

Danielson said test results from his lab are showing strong germination and vigour numbers for most cereal crops, including spring wheat, durum and barley.

Germination numbers for oats, however, are down slightly.

About 26 percent of the oat samples tested by Discovery Seed Labs since last fall showed germination levels below 85 percent.

“Oats, again, we’re suspecting that there might have been some frost in areas where these samples are coming up a bit challenged,” Danielson said.

Seed growers and commercial farmers should also pay attention to germination levels in peas, he said.

Germination and vigour scores for field peas looked good last fall, but subsequent tests conducted in early 2021 suggest that the quality of some seed lots may have deteriorated in storage.

That could be the result of extremely dry harvest conditions that caused micro-cracking.

“Field peas? Not bad,” said Danielson

“But as we’re getting (pea samples) retested, we’re starting to see some challenges … likely due to micro-cracking.

Lab tests from Discovery are showing “a continual drop in those germ and vigour numbers (for peas),” he said.

A full recording of the SSGA event, entitled Seed Quality Across the Prairies can be viewed online at www.saskseed.ca under the member resources tab, or at bit.ly/3qfj0L9.

Across Canada, pedigreed seed acreage was down slightly in 2020.

Total pedigreed seed acreage was listed at nearly 1.27 million acres in 2020, down from 1.29 million acres in 2019, according to the Canadian Seed Growers Association’s annual acreage report, compiled last November.

The 2020 figure was Canada’s lowest level of pedigreed seed production since 2014 when CSGA’s seed grower members had 1.17 million acres inspected for certification.

In the West, two of the three prairie provinces saw an increase in pedigreed seed acres in 2020.

Saskatchewan seed growers had 340,621 pedigreed seed acres inspected last year, up 3.2 percent from 2019.

Alberta seed growers also saw a slight year-over-year increase at 353,966 acres in 2020, compared to 351,760 acres in 2019.

Acreage was down sharply in Manitoba.

Total pedigreed seed acreage in that province was listed at 305,484 acres in 2020, compared to almost 342,000 acres a year earlier.

That represents a year-over-year decrease of more than 36,000 acres, or 10.6 percent.

Since 2017, pedigreed seed production in Manitoba has declined by 85,000 acres, or nearly 22 percent.

A significant drop in pedigreed soybean plantings is one factor behind Manitoba’s declining numbers. Excess moisture and poor harvest conditions in 2019 also played a role.

Analysts said seed supplies should ideally be tested for vigour and germination twice — once in the fall before cleaning and processing and again in the spring before planting.

In some cases, seed that produces good test results in the fall can produce less impressive results in the spring, after spending the winter in storage.

Moisture levels in stored seed and temperature conditions can impact seed viability.

Testing is even more important with seed that has been carried over from previous years.

If storage conditions are ideal and seed quality and moisture levels are good, then carry-over may show no adverse effects.

Nonetheless, seed quality tests are highly recommended before planting.

Barley seed may be particularly prone to deterioration if it remains in storage for a prolonged period.

Contact brian.cross@producer.com

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