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Test All Flax Seed For 2011

Any requirement that adds cost and aggravation to growing a crop is rarely welcomed, but farmers choosing to grow flax this year are being urged to test all flax seed before it goes in the ground. Yes, even if the seed lot used last year tested negative and, yes, even if you used pedigreed seed. Flax harvested will still need to be tested this fall, prior to entering the commercial grain handling system.

This recommendation coming from the Flax Council of Canada is designed to further decreases the chance of genetic material continually circulating on the Prairies. Speaking at Crop Production Week in Saskatoon last month, Barry Hall, president of the Flax Council of Canada, urged farmers to take this added step before seeding, even though it does add to the cost of producing the crop.

CDC Triffid was approved for use in Canada but was never commercially released. Trace amounts of the variety was found in a shipment to Germany in 2009. The genetic event contained in CDC Triffid was never approved in the European Union, therefore tolerance of the gene is zero.

When CDC Triffid remnants were found in that shipment, the initial push was to require all farmers use certified seed for planting in 2010. Further testing found that certified seed varieties were also contaminated. As such, the current protocol does allow for farm-saved seed, but each seed lot is subject to the same testing protocol as certified seed lots.

However, and this is the sticking point, just because the seed lot you used last year tested negative for Triffid doesn’t mean there isn’t a chance of that genetic material still mingling in your bin. When the industry talks about finding Triffid, they mean that if even one in 10,000 seeds contains the material, it tests positive for the trait (that’s equivalent to 0.01 per cent). Given the sampling volume tests are taken from, it is possible for a sample to test negative, but later found to contain the trait (see side bar on testing protocol).

Recently, funding was announced to cover half the cost of the testing, Hall says. Farmers who submit samples should only be charged half the total cost, the other half being covered by funding from the Canadian Agricultural Adaptation Program. Farmers should expect to pay around $100 per test.

Going forward, certified seed lines are being reconstituted — breeder seed is being grown out, tested for the trait and is then either tossed out (if positive) or allowed to grow out. In a few years, likely by 2013 or so, farmers should have access to 100 per cent Triffid free pedigreed seed lines.


A new testing protocol was introduced last year, the “four by 60” test, where farmers submitted a two kilogram sample from each shipment. That sample is then split into in four, 60 gram samples and each has to test clear of CDC Triffid material in order to be deemed negative for the trait. It’s a better protocol, Hall says, and he credits this more stringent standard with a decrease in the number of shipments arriving at port containing CDC Triffid genetic material (any shipments containing the trait are then re-directed). Re-directing Triffid-containing flax well in advance of port, like at the farm level or at the elevator, is significantly more cost effective for all those involved than at port.

According to the Flax Council, the two kilogram samples submitted at harvest should represent no more than 5,000 bushels (20 tonnes), and only if the crop was seeded from the same seed source and the entire field has the same recent cropping history. Farmers are also asked to list the variety name of the sample submission. Samples are to be sent to approved laboratories. A complete list is found on the Flax Council’s website The website also contains full details on the testing protocol for more information you may also call (204) 982-2125.


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