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Disease Rife In Prairie Seeds


It’s not uncommon for a seed-testing lab to recommend having seed quality evaluated, but after an exceptionally wet growing season in 2010, the Alberta-based 20/20 Seed Labs warns both farmers and seed growers not to take anything for granted.

A dramatic increase in sclerotinia in lentils is just one example of the disease spike being found on seeds this winter, says Barry Little, client services representative for the company.

“It is not uncommon to see infected seed, but usually we would see one to five per cent of lentil seed with the disease,” he says. “This fall between 15 and 25 per cent of seed is infected.

“All disease levels in western Canadian crops were higher because of the wet growing conditions and we’re seeing more infected seed. Normally these diseases would be at one to three per cent background levels and we’re seeing five, 10 and 15 per cent of seed infected. Because of the situation there could even be seed shortages,” he says.

Little says ascochyta in peas is ranging as high as 25 per cent disease infection.

The disease load makes it important for farmers to have seeds tested, he says. And it is also important to use fungicide seed treatments — although not always completely effective — to protect seedlings and reduce the risk spreading the disease in the soil.

“There is a lot of brown bagging in seed, and if a farmer is seeing 10 per cent disease infection or higher, they really should consider finding a better seed source,” says Little.

Even buying certified seed is no guarantee, says Little. Seed growers face the same disease pressure as commercial farmers, and not every batch is tested or comes with a disease-free verification.

“It is important that farmers make good seed choices and start with clean, disease-free seed with a good germination test,” says Little. “And they need to follow good agronomic practices too, by following a proper rotation. They need to even watch when planting different crops in rotation if they are both susceptible to the same disease. For example, don’t follow canola with peas and lentils if the field has been susceptible to sclerotinia in the past.”

For information on seed testing contact 20/20 Seed Labs at or go online and Google “Accredited Seed Labs” for a complete list of labs in Canada.

LeeHartisafieldeditorforGrainewsinCalgary, Contacthimat403-592-1964orbyemailat [email protected]

About the author

Field Editor

Lee Hart

Lee Hart is editor of Cattleman’s Corner based in Calgary.



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