The issue of disposal of treated seed hit the headlines recently when a Saskatchewan farmer discovered two cows and a bull dead in his fields after consuming treated canola seed which had been dumped illegally on his land.
Seed treated with fungicides or insecticides should never be allowed to enter the feed or food chain. In a recent blog, Lizabeth Stahl, an extension educator at the University of Minnesota wrote: “Treated seed is not to be used for food, feed or oil processing, and care must be taken to not contaminate grain going into the food or feed market. There is ZERO tolerance for treated seed in the export market, meaning that a single seed could result in the rejection of an entire load.”
Farmers should cover up treated seed spills with soil to ensure that birds and other wildlife don’t consume them. For unwanted, leftover seed, there may be several options for farmers to dispose of it both on and off-farm. One of the most important things is that farmers read the seed bag label so they know exactly what the seed has been treated with and the recommended practices for disposal.
One of the best disposal options is to plant the treated seed on fallow or unused ground, but Stahl advised, depending on the seed treatment, there may be restrictions on planting rate and depth. Some seed may be suitable for burial (again check the label) but should not be buried close to any water source.
Treated seed should never be composted or burned in a heating stove used inside a building (home, shop etc) because it can give off toxic fumes.
There may be a number of options for producers to dispose of treated seed off-farm, including disposal at a landfill site (depending on provincial regulations — see below). Some power plants and ethanol plants may also take treated seed as a fuel source.
The following is taken from the Canadian Seed Trade Association’s Guide to Treated Seed Stewardship, which includes guidelines about how to dispose of unwanted seed that has been treated with fungicides or insecticides.
For small quantities of unused, treated seed, the guide recommends:
1. Return excess treated seed to its original seed lot containers if the seed is intended for storage and subsequent planting.
2. Plant in fallow or other non-cropped areas of the farm in accordance to the seed treatment product label.
3. Unless restricted by label language, excess treated seed may be double planted in the turn rows at the end of the field or within a portion of the field.
For larger quantities of treated seed not acceptable for planting, the guide says:
- Large quantities of treated seed in sealed and undamaged packages, bags or totes, in many cases, may be returned to your supplier.
- Consult with your provincial authorities to ensure your disposal plan is in compliance with all appropriate regulations.
- Disposal facilities will be required to have a Ministry of the Environment (or similar) permit to accept pesticide treated material (such as treated seed). Whether a waste management facility, power plant, cement kiln, ethanol plant, or municipal landfill is permitted to dispose of seed treated with a particular pesticide can only be confirmed by contacting the facility.
- Your seed supplier may also be aware of permitted disposal facilities in your area. Treated seed can be land filled at a Class I or II landfill if it is classed as non-hazardous waste according to Provincial waste control regulations. If it is classed as hazardous waste by provincial regulations, check with provincial waste disposal regulations and agencies to determine if it can be disposed in a Class 1 landfill, and to determine locations of Class 1 landfills.
Remember, there is zero tolerance for treated kernels in the commodity grain channel when the treated seed tag states the seed is not for food, feed, or oil purposes.