Act to protect farm-saved seed quality growers advised

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Growers can expect disrupted certified seed cropping plans following last year’s difficult drilling season coupled with disease pressure making some older varieties vulnerable and the possibility of short supplies of in-demand varieties.

The British Society of Plant Breeders (BSPB) saw little difference in the overall certified seed market for spring crops due to difficult drilling conditions, says Stephanie Spiers, head of business operations for BSPB. However, she advises that if growers want certified seed for the autumn, they should let their supplier know as soon as possible.

“For farmers intending to use farm-saved seed, some processors can quickly turn out the quality farmers need and will collect the royalty at the point of processing,” adds Stephanie.

Tom Whitehouse, technical specialist at UPL, adds that there are steps that growers can take to manage cropping areas that will be used to produce seed.

He says that selecting the best part of the field for seed production will enable bespoke management. Ideally, it will be clean of weeds and will not follow any crop that could increase disease pressure.

“Preferably, the crop was sown using certified seed, providing confidence in its purity from the start.

“These areas should be regularly inspected. Where diseases such as bunt, ergot, leaf stripe and loose smut are present, do not use it for seed production.

“Additionally, effective weed control ensures a clean seed sample is produced, and weeds are not spread to other fields. Rogueing of blackgrass, brome, wild oats, off-types, and visibly infected tillers will help to ensure the seed sample is clean,” explains Tom

Once the crop is ready to harvest, the combine must be cleaned thoroughly to remove weed seeds, or residues from other crops or varieties.

“Harvest in optimum conditions. Try to harvest when the seed is at 15% moisture to avoid the need for grain drying, which in turn can reduce seed germination.

“If drying is required, ensure the temperature is not too high and moisture does not drop below 15%. Farm-saved seed should also be stored separately from any other grain,” says Tom.

Every sample needs to be tested after harvest to assess quality. This will show the germination percentage and detect seed-borne diseases.

“Fungicide single purpose dressings (SPDs) should be used where testing has established a presence of disease on the seeds or if the seed is untested.

“Seed treatments like Rancona-i-Mix (ipconazole + imazalil) are essential to ensure a rapid and uniform crop establishment, which is critical in a season like this year. They have a low cost per hectare and control seed-borne diseases that cannot be controlled with foliar fungicides,” explains Tom.

He adds that further seed treatments on top of the SPD may be required in specific circumstances. Signal 300ES (cypermethrin) will reduce the damage caused by wireworm, wheat bulb fly, and frit fly. Products containing silthiofam will help control take-all if it is second or third wheat.

Tom says biostimulant seed treatments like Sunagreen and nutrition like manganese also help improve establishment and early crop growth.

Where growers are unsure what royalty rates are due for farm-saved seed, Stephanie advises that the complete list is available on the BSPB website, or farmers can contact their farm support team.

Genetics are essential to overcoming the agronomic challenges farmers face, and breeders need to see a return to develop new varieties, says Staphanie.

“Royalties are investment for seed innovation,” she adds.

UPL to offer new seed treatment option

With several active substances used within cereal fungicidal seed treatments facing uncertain futures, UPL plans to bring to market a new option based on azoles plus an additional mode of action.

Products containing fludioxonil, tebuconazole and ipconazole are at risk under the EU regulatory process, according to UPL’s Tom Wheelhouse, with any decisions on non-approval likely to follow in the UK market.

“The upshot is the seed treatment market is likely to change quite radically in the next three to five years,” he predicts.

That could make loose smut control in barley, in particular, more of a challenge, with prothioconazole effectiveness threatened by reduced sensitivity. “It’s a disease that could become more widespread if those actives go,” Tom suggests.

UPL has been testing alternative modes of action as possible options to partner with azole chemistry at its Shray Hill research and development centre, one of which is showing promise with broader spectrum control of the main five seed-borne diseases, loose smut, leaf stripe, bunt, fusarium and Microdochium nivale.

“We’re hopeful we will have a product to help growers control these important seed-borne diseases,” he says.


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