Planting quality seed is the best insurance

High disease and weed pressure stemming from record wet growing conditions across Australia in 2016 has increased risks of this year’s planting seed being contaminated with weed seeds and carrying-over fungal pathogens including sclerotes.

Kevin Morthorpe, Canola Business and Product Stewardship Manager, says “sourcing planting seed produced and conditioned (cleaning and grading) under a quality assurance (QA) scheme is the most effective approach and best insurance for growers for all crops. The benefits of professional seed production schemes are most significant in small seed and broadleaf crops including canola and many types of pasture species. For hybrid crops, the decision is simple because first generation seed can only be sourced through seed companies that follow such quality management processes”.

Examples of the quality management processes developed and the commitment to deliver Pioneer® brand seed products include:

  • Commercial seed is produced by contracted specialist growers using best practices and expertise delivered from our dedicated and trained production agronomists
  • Seed production paddocks are identified in areas ‘isolated’ from, or having low levels of, Sclerotinia or other fungal diseases and known weed history
  • Specialist cleaning and grading equipment operated by professionals
  • In-house seed quality testing from harvesting to bagging of seed covering germination, physical, trait and genetic purity using ISTA methods and global protocols from DuPont Pioneer
  • Commercial Seed for planting in each State is also tested through an independent ISTA accredited laboratory to meet State quarantine requirements
  • In addition to planting seed quality, in-house testing includes end-use product quality such as canola oil analysis to meet industry trading standards. Using retained grain for planting without quality testing is likely to create and/or increase risks at grain delivery (rejection/downgrading/loss of price premiums) and damage the reputation of Australian grain in export markets
    Of special importance in canola is trait purity, where over 98 percent of the planted area is with herbicide tolerant cultivars. Proprietary QA processes test trait purity from breeder’s seed to commercial seedlots. Managing and preserving trait purity ensures crop safety, safeguards yield potential and gives peace of mind to growers.

The research teams at Pioneer Australia conduct yield testing field trials across Australia (including all States) and screen hybrids in-season for agronomic characteristics and disease assessment compared to industry commercial products as benchmarks.

In canola, disease nurseries for both Sclerotinia and Blackleg are being run by Pioneer in Australia. Variability in the incidence and severity of disease infection between canola cultivars has been clearly shown. This information is used for advancement decisions of commercial products, selection of protective seed treatments and recommendation of customized agronomic packages.

In addition to using quality planting seed, there are a range of other management techniques that can also be effective in reducing the impact of Sclerotinia in canola crops, including:

  • Planning crop rotations using non-host break crops, such as winter cereals and summer crops (forage/grain sorghum, corn) on high risk paddocks
  • Extend the interval between successive canola crops from two years to four years in high risks growing zones for disease and/or resistant weed populations
  • Avoiding planting canola on or downwind of paddocks that have had high Sclerotinia levels in the past three years
  • Using recommended canola sowing dates and rates for the district and that matches the phenology (time and duration of flowering) of the canola cultivar
  • Having foliar fungicides on-hand, closely track seasonal conditions favourable for fungal infection and target application at the optimum flowering stage (20-30 per cent flowering or 50 per cent flowering when epidemics are late). A second fungicide application has shown significant benefits in protecting yield potential in high-yielding crops