Purchasing seed from areas that may have had Fusarium Head Blight, by: Clair Langlois, Cereal Extension Specialist

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Purchasing seed from a local supplier has been a little more difficult this year than normal. Local seed distributers are a great way to save the cost of shipping or picking up the seed, but for many growers finding good seed has meant searching further afield due to poor weather last fall playing havoc with either germination or quality of the seed (reduced vigor, reduced seed size, etc.). Consequently, some farmers are travelling further for the seed and getting the seed from an area that perhaps has harbored Fusarium graminearum in the recent past. Fusarium graminearum is the fungus that causes Fusarium Head Bight or FHB. Simply do not take a chance, as once FHB has been introduced to a clean field and completes a life cycle, it is a lot harder to manage.

When purchasing certified seed you should ask for the disease test results that will prove the seed to be “fusarium free”. The bottom line is that you can avoid the risk and have peace of mind by following best management practices (BMPs) and treat all seed with an appropriate fungicide before planting. Although unable to prevent infection later in the growing season (spores blowing in from a nearby source of FHB and thus spreading to the wheat heads causing the typical FHB symptoms), seed treatments helps prevent seedling blights caused by Fusarium graminearum and other seed and soil-borne pathogens. Therefore, prior to planting a cereal crop, treat the seed with a registered fungicide that includes Fusarium on the label of the list of diseases that are controlled. It will reduce the unintentional spread of FHB into a field or area that has not had it before.

You should also keep a representative sample of the seed purchased BMPs related to Seed and Planting:

  • Always use healthy seed with no detectable levels of F. graminearum to avoid introducing the pathogen into your production area. Request a seed health report that shows testing results specifically for F. graminearum. Organic producers should test multiple random samples from a seed lot to ensure that the seed is non-detectable for F. graminearum.
  • Prior to planting, treat all cereal and corn intended for use as seed in Alberta with a registered fungicide that includes the genus Fusarium on the label list of fungi that are controlled.
  • Continuous or short rotation cereals or corn allow for a buildup of F. graminearum on infested residues. Leave at least two years between host crops (e.g. all small grain cereals, corn).
  • Avoid corn in rotation with small grain cereals. Corn is also a host of F. graminearum, where it causes seed rots, seedling blight, root rot, stalk rot and ear rot.
  • Field location can be an important consideration as F. graminearum can move from one field to the next. If practical, avoid planting small grain cereals immediately adjacent to cereal or corn fields where elevated levels of F. graminearum are known or suspected to occur.
  • Increase seeding rates to promote a more uniform stand, reduced tillering and a shorter flowering period for the crop. This approach helps reduce the period the crop is flowering, which is the growth stage most at risk for infection. Moreover, more uniform flowering of plants may help improve fungicide performance because most, if not all, of the crop will be at the key growth stage for application.

Following these specific requirements prior to seeding should produce good results. For the complete guide follow Alberta Fusarium graminearum Management Planat http://www1.agric.gov.ab.ca/$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/agdex5210/$file/110_632-3.pdf?OpenElement

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