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Each year, the Saskatchewan pulse and cereal commissions partner with commercial seed testing laboratories to complete an annual survey of seed-borne pathogens measured on seeds grown in Saskatchewan during the previous season. All labs that offer seed testing services to Saskatchewan growers are invited to participate in the annual survey with anonymous reporting of results amalgamated by crop district from all participating labs.

Interim seed quality data, collected from the time of harvest to the end of December, are summarized and communicated to growers, agronomists, researchers, and industry during the winter months, ahead of the next crop season. These interim results provide insights into seed quality trends and identify potential hotspots for seed-borne pathogens across the province. A final summary of results, including data from seed samples analyzed after the interim results, is reported at the end of May. This final summary is submitted for publication in the Canadian Phytopathological Society Canadian Plant Disease Surveys. This publication of the provincial survey provides a record of seed-borne pathogen trends in pulse and cereal crops and allows for continued tracking of diseases over time. This document is intended to summarize the results to provide trends in the province and crop districts. These results should not be used in the absence of testing and extra caution should be used when interpreting results with very few samples. Sample size is indicated for each crop district on the maps. 

Acknowledgments  

The provincial seed survey would not be possible without the participation of 20/20 Seed Labs Inc., Discovery Seed Labs, and Prairie Diagnostic Seed Labs. Lendon Seed Labs also participates in the survey but shares final results only. Thank you to all lab partners for their continued effort and support of this project. Brian Olson, independent contractor, is also gratefully acknowledged for his coordination of the seed quality survey and summarization of results. A special thanks is also extended to Dr. Randy Kutcher and Dr. Sabine Banniza from the University of Saskatchewan for their external review and pathology expertise. External review efforts of Dr. Alireza Akhavan, Provincial Plant Disease Specialist and Dale Risula, Provincial Pulses, Forages, and Specialty Crops Specialist, of the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture (SMA) are also recognized with an extra note of appreciation to Dr. Alireza Akhavan and the SMA Geomatics team for creating the seed-borne pathogen maps by crop district.

Germination Results 

Percent germination levels were documented during the 2023 provincial seed survey with interim results showing a slight improvement of germination levels across most crops from reported levels in 2022. High numbers of seed lots harvested in 2021, particularly field pea, were reported to have below acceptable levels of germination and steady increases in germination of seed lots harvested in 2022 and 2023 have been seen. Mean germination of all crop types tested was 94.0%.  

Although germination levels look quite favourable across all provincial crop districts and all crop types, testing of individual seed lots is still recommended prior to seeding in the spring of 2024.  

Table 1. Average percent germination of Saskatchewan pulse and cereal seed samples analyzed by commercial labs as of December 28, 2023.

Type Crop Number of Samples Mean Germination (%)
Pulses Lentils  351  96.1 
Peas  277  91.0 
Chickpeas  55  92.6 
Cereals Barley  176  96.0 
Durum  267  93.9 
Oats  42  95.0 
Wheat  629  93.4 

Pulse Pathogen Results 

The interim results of commercial plate tests for seed-borne pathogens of lentil, field pea, and chickpea samples reveal a relatively high number of pathogen-free seed samples from across the province. Results to-date suggest a strong overall decrease in mean infection levels of seed produced during the 2023 growing season compared to results from 2022.  

Distribution of submitted samples and crop districts reporting seed-borne pathogens varies across the province. Although the maps created by the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture can help identify areas of lower risk of seed-borne disease, testing of individual seed lots is still recommended. 

Table 2. Average percent of pathogen-free pulse seed samples and average infection levels measured in samples with disease analyzed as of December 28, 2023.

Crop Pathogen Number of Samples Pathogen-free samples Mean infection1
(%)
Lentils Ascochyta 349  95.7  0.2 
Anthracnose 348  98.0  0.1 
Botrytis 348  98.6  0.1 
Sclerotinia 348  99.4  0.05 
Field Peas Ascochyta 268  55.2  1.1 
Botrytis 266  99.6  0.1 
Sclerotinia 266  98.9  0.1 
Chickpeas Ascochyta 55  87.3  0.3 
Botrytis 55  100  0.0 
Sclerotinia 55  100  0.0 

1Mean infection level of samples with disease 

Cereal Pathogen Results 

The interim results of commercial plate tests for seed-borne fusarium pathogens reveal very low mean infection levels in barley, durum, oat, and wheat samples tested as of December 28, 2023. The percentages of total Fusarium spp. and F. graminearum-free samples are trending higher with lower mean infection levels across all cereal samples relative to the previous season.  

Table 3. Average percent of pathogen-free cereal seed samples and average infection levels measured in samples with disease analyzed as of December 28, 2023.

Crop Total Fusarium Fusarium graminearum
Pathogen-free samples Mean infection1 Number of Samples Pathogen-free samples Mean infection1 Number of Samples
(%)
Barley 25.9  2.5  174  76.5  0.9  170 
Durum 59.2  1.3  267  90.6  0.5  202 
Oats 17.5  3.7  40  95.1  0.1  41 
Wheat 34.2  1.8  591  87.1  0.7  621 

1Mean infection level of samples with disease 

Despite overall low levels of Fusarium-infected cereal seed lots being reported in interim results, seed quality does vary by crop districts as detailed by maps created by the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture and it is recommended that seed lots should be tested on an individual basis.  

Published March 2024