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Importance of seed treatments

Producers should consider seed treatments like an insurance policy for establishing the best crop possible given the growing conditions at the time. So says Bill Chapman, crop business development specialist with Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development (AARD).

"If conditions are good for crop establishment, seed treatments may not be needed," he says. "However, if growing conditions at establishment are not ideal, the benefits of using a seed treatment will often more than pay for themselves. Good crop establishment is one of the most important stages in a crop's development. Any negative impact at this stage will affect the stages after this and at the end, could impact yields."

Chapman says that, most importantly, seed treatment helps in controlling disease.

"Your seed may be infected with a disease that was in the crop it originated from. A good seed treatment will prevent most seed borne diseases, like Fusarium and smuts, from developing. If you bought pedigreed seed, the seed certificate of analysis should tell you if any diseased kernels were found and of which disease."

Chapman says a lot of areas in the province, especially in central Alberta with the snow and cold last fall, had problems with germination. "There were reports of 40-80 per cent germination on some cereal crops which is way too low. Seed treatment won't cure this, but if you've checked your seed and are ready to go, treatment will help control diseases as they come in, and to keep the roots clean for the first 10-14 days after seeding. Treating your seed helps ensure your crop is getting as good as a start as you can give it."

Chapman says it is critical to check the root systems for problems. "When you look at the primary and secondary roots, you can see what the cleaner seed that was treated looks like. You should get out there every three to five days to make sure nothing is going on that can cost you, and to check for germination and emergence."

He adds you should also keep an eye out for are things like common root rot, which will be a darker brown discoloration on the plant, and which can affect a plant's ability to uptake nutrients and water.