If I plan to sow Fusarium-infected seed, when should I use a seed treatment?

Using good quality seed, with high germinability and vigour, and low disease incidence, is always recommended. Cleaning of grain to remove fusarium damaged kernels can improve grade and seed germination. In addition, seed should be planted into warm, well-drained, fertile soil at the appropriate depth. Applying fungicidal seed treatments to cereal seed is also a beneficial management practice that helps reduce risks associated with seedling mortality and reductions in stand establishment due to seed-borne, seed-transmitted and soil-borne fungal pathogens especially when planting conditions are not optimal. Fusarium species are examples of fungi that can cause disease on germinating seeds and seedlings and reduce plant populations. The level of Fusarium infection in a seed lot should be determined by laboratory testing, not just by counting fusarium damaged kernels. In cases where Fusarium infections reduce germination, a germination test should be used to adjust the seeding rate so that emergence and yield are not compromised. Research has shown that when seeding rates are adjusted based on germination rates, seed with low levels of infection (5-10%) have no significant improvement in emergence or yield due to a seed treatment (May et al., 2010). However, it is important to keep in mind that other soil-borne, residue-borne or seed-borne microorganisms (i.e. pests other than Fusarium spp.) can also cause diseases on germinating seeds and seedlings, so even if Fusarium is not detected on seed, a seed treatment should still be considered as a beneficial risk management tool to protect against additional threats such as Pythium spp., Rhizoctonia spp., and others.

Seed treatment recommendations for each province are as follows:


Threshold – 0%

Actions/Recommendations – Always use healthy seed with no detectable levels of F. graminearum

Always use a registered fungicidal seed treatment that includes Fusarium on the label



Threshold – 2-3%

Actions/Recommendations – Use a seed treatment for F. graminearum infection in areas where F. graminearum is not established

Threshold – 5%

Actions/Recommendations -Do not use seed when F. graminearum infection levels exceed this threshold in areas where F. graminearum is not established

Threshold – 10%

Actions/Recommendations -Use a seed treatment when total Fusarium spp. infection levels exceed this threshold in areas where F. graminearum is established or when F. graminearum levels are less than 5% in areas where F. graminearum is not established



Threshold – none

Actions/Recommendations – Use clean seed with good germination, seed treatments may improve germination



May, W. E., Fernandez, M. R. and Lafond, G. P. 2010. Effect of fungicidal seed treatments on the emergence, development, and grain yield of Fusarium graminearum-infected wheat and barley seed under field conditions. Can. J. Plant Sci. 90: 89 3_904.

Submitted by

Holly Derksen, Field Crop Pathologist

Barbara Ziesman, Provincial Specialist, Plant Disease, Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture

Michael Harding, Research Scientist, Plant Pathology, Alberta Agriculture & Forestry

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Fluency Agent & Corn Planting

Corn planting is (slowly) underway across Southern Manitoba, and I’ve received a few questions regarding the use of Fluency Agent.

Below are some requirements (and exceptions) as stated by PMRA for using a seed flow lubricant for planting corn and soybean seed treated with neonicotinoid insecticides (containing the active ingredients clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam).

1) The mandatory use of Fluency Agent only applies when planting corn and soybeansAll other crops are exempt.

2) Fluency Agent must be used if using a seed flow lubricant for planting corn and soybean seed treated with neonicotinoid insecticides (containing the active ingredients clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam). Talc and graphite are not permitted for use as a seed flow lubricant.

3) Exceptions to the above include:

  • Planting machinery that does not currently require the use of a seed flow lubricant. That is, if you haven’t used lubricant before, you don’t need to use the Fluency Agent now.
  • The use of graphite may continue as a mechanical lubricant in finger pickup or mechanical type planters only (i.e. non-pneumatic equipment).

For those who are still in doubt, here is PMRA’s website explaining this criteria and further information on Fluency Agent: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/cps-spc/pubs/pest/_fact-fiche/pollinator-protection-pollinisateurs/treated_seed-2014-semences_traitees-eng.php

The above information was presented in Field Crop News by Tracey Baute (OMAFRA).


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Updated Treated Seed Best Management Practices

The Updated Treated Seed Best Management Practices document is now posted to the Health Canada website:  http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/cps-spc/pubs/pest/_fact-fiche/pollinator-protection-pollinisateurs/treated_seed-semences_traitees-eng.php

The PDF of the updated document is also available:  Pollinator Protection and Responsible Use of Insecticide Treated Seed_January 8, 2014 (Health Canada)


Best Management Practices

Insect pollinators are vital to agricultural production and the environment. Many farmers, including those who grow corn and soybeans, use insecticide treated seed to protect their crop from insect pests. Some insecticides, such as neonicotinoids, are toxic to pollinators. Planting of treated seed can spread dust that contains insecticide into the air, placing pollinators at significant risk of exposure to toxic insecticides. Factors that impact the risk of exposure include the use of treated seed, type of planting equipment, planting conditions, flowering resources and bee yard locations.

The following Best Management Practices (BMPs) are provided to reduce the risk to bees and other insect pollinators from exposure to dust from treated seed. The BMPs provide a toolbox of options that should be used in combination wherever possible.

  1. Read and adhere to the pesticide label and seed tag directions
  2. Practice Integrated Pest Management when choosing seed treatments
  3. Develop and maintain shared communication with beekeepers to help protect honeybees
  4. Recognize pollinator habitat and take special care to reduce dust exposure
  5. Avoid generating dust when handling and loading treated seed
  6. Managing planting equipment to decrease dust drift
  7. Use appropriate seed flow lubricant
  8. Ensure proper clean-up and disposal

Submitted by:  Pam de Rocquigny, MAFRD Cereal Crops Specialist & John Gavloski, MAFRD Extension Entomologist

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